PM agrees to tweak regulations governing states of public emergency
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has acquiesced to a proposal by Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips that some provisions in the regulations governing states of public emergency should be adjusted. This is to make it clear that certain powers given to the minister of national security can only be exercised upon the advice of the heads of the security forces or the competent authority.
Debating a motion to extend the state of public emergency in the St Catherine North Police Division in Gordon House on Tuesday, Phillips said that the Parliament should consider recasting the regulations that have been used for decades.
The motion was approved by 47 members of Parliament, while 16 lawmakers were absent.
"We are uncomfortable with a minister having the power to vary a detention order," said Phillips.
He highlighted concerns in relation to Section 32 of the regulations, which allows the minister to make an order that places a person under house arrest or to be confined to a place determined by the minister if the person has no fixed address.
The regulation states that such action by the minister could be taken to prevent a person from acting in a manner "prejudicial to public safety or public order".
A GOOD PROPOSAL
Phillips also encouraged the Government to stipulate in the regulations that high-level decisions in relation to operational matters should be made jointly by the chief of defence staff and the commissioner of police.
The prime minister argued that the administration had crafted a similar arrangement, which now governs the zones of special operations. "We have no objections to that. It is a good proposal," said Holness, adding that it would advance the regulations.
However, Holness pointed out that any amendments to the regulations could not be accommodated in the current state of public emergency in the St Catherine North Police Division.
Making further comments on the Opposition's concerns, Holness said that the minister could not, on his own volition, decide to deprive someone of his freedom of movement without being satisfied that this action should be taken against such a person. "The law literally requires that what a reasonable person should do to be satisfied should be done."