Mt Salem residents want to milk ZOSO fully
Clearly pleased with the stability that the zone of special operations (ZOSO) has brought to their community, some residents of Mt Salem in Montego Bay, St James, are quite pleased with the decision to extend the initiative by another 60 days, saying that it would allow for the implementation of the promised social intervention programmes.
"Oh yes, I am happy about it. Don't you see we are now the safest community in St James today?" said Winsome Barnes, who spearheads a number of community projects in Mt Salem to include the popular Mt Salem Community Football League.
"I wish I could find a way to bring some of this peace to the communities that are being plagued by violence."
The ZOSO initiative, which started in Mt Salem on September 1, was slated to end on October 31 but was extended for another 60 days under the support of government and opposition lawmakers. Mt Salem was the first ZOSO to be declared in Jamaica.
While only five firearms and two alleged wanted men were found during the first 60 days of operation, Prime Minister Andrew Holness is commending the restoration of peace in the community and the willingness of residents to support initiatives to better their lives.
"To the extent that the preservation of life and the restoration of the community's confidence in legitimate state structures were highlighted as being of the utmost importance, the Mount Salem zone should be considered a successful endeavour," the prime minister said.
However, Barnes will not be satisfied until all the promises made with regard to the ZOSO social intervention component, which she believes will be key to sustaining a lasting peace, are implemented.
"I am working very closely with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) to ensure that all the promises that were made to the community are kept," said Barnes.
"Now that the community is stable, it is time to address the social problems so that when the ZOSO finally ends, we can say we are a better community because of it."
... We want peace all over St James, say youth
Pastor Knollis King of the Rose Heights community in Montego Bay, St James, which has seen a major upsurge in violence in recent weeks, says that based on the vast sums of money spent on the zone of special operations (ZOSO), he believes that much more could have been achieved.
"The intention might be good, but the direction leaves a lot to be desired. I think the whole exercise could have been more cost effective and still yield better results," said King, who has spearheaded a number of peace initiatives in his community. "Another thing is that instead of coming up with creative ways to apprehend the criminals, they allow them to escape, giving them a chance to fight another day."
Interestingly, some of the young men in Mt Salem, which is now under an extended ZOSO, believe that with other sections of the parish under criminal siege, the ZOSO should be extended to those communities with a view to quelling their lawlessness.
"It really doesn't make much sense to have peace in Mt Salem and war in the other communities," one young man told The Gleaner yesterday. "Two hundred and sixty murders since the start of the year is no joke thing. We want to see peace all over St James, not only in Mt Salem."