One voice against crime - 51 MPs vote to extend state of emergency
Lawmakers yesterday voted unanimously to extend the state of public emergency in St James by three months, sending a strong signal to the criminal underworld that legislators were in unison as they approved a resolution to cramp the record murder rate in the parish.
Fifty-one parliamentarians voted in support of extending the state of public emergency in St James until May 2. Eleven legislators were absent.
"People are seeing that the Government is serious, the Opposition is serious about crime. There is an evolving consensus that we must tackle this thing," Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in Parliament yesterday.
"The police are acting in a way that is inuring and building the confidence. I think that we are on to a good thing if we can maintain the posture against the criminals."
The state of public emergency in St James has an initial duration of 14 days, after which the bi-cameral legislature is required to give a two-thirds majority support for the operation to be extended.
Members of parliament on both sides of the political divide voted on the Emergency Powers (continuation) Resolution, 2018.
Holness, who announced a state of public emergency on January 18, told his parliamentary colleagues that since the security forces started their operations, 51 persons have been arrested and charged. At the same time, 10 high-powered weapons have been seized, including AK-47 rifles, M16 rifles and an Uzi submachine gun.
Opposition calls for kingfish of organised crime to be nabbed
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said yesterday that many of the persons who have been detained under the state of public emergency are young males between 18 and 25.
"The idea is not only to punish but to rehabilitate," the prime minister said of the detainees.
Many have been detained on suspicion of murder and lottery scamming, while others had breached the conditions of their bail.
"The truth is, we have an emergency with respect to the number of illegal firearms in the country."
In a statement to Parliament, the prime minister commended the security forces for carrying out their duties in a professional manner. "The way in which they operate is a credit to Jamaica," he added.
While giving his full support to the extension of the state of public emergency, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips cautioned against using this method of tackling crime in an "open-ended" manner.
"Even as we are minded to support the extension for three months, there cannot be an open-ended state of emergency in St James or any other part of the country, so while we will support this, we urge that all necessary measures will be taken to ensure that the situation is brought under control."
He called for the "kingfish of organised crime in St James to be brought to book".
Murderers took the lives of 335 people in St James last year.