West Kingston ZOSO extended
While the use of the gun to murder residents in Denham Town has been significantly reduced since the introduction of the zone of special operations (ZOSO) in October 2017, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said that the propensity to commit violence in the troubled west Kingston community still exists and, therefore, the sustained presence of the security forces must continue.
In that regard, the prime minister piloted two motions for extensions to the ZOSOs in both Denham Town and Mount Salem in St James. Members of the House approved the motions. The zones were extended by 60 days.
In his comments, Holness said that in Denham Town, there was still cause for concern as knives and machetes, as well as acid, were being used to resolve conflicts, even as shooting incidents have declined.
Emphasising the need to extend the ZOSO in Denham Town, the prime minister reminded the House that when the operation moved from the 'build' to the 'hold' phase, where fewer members of the security forces were present, gunmen from nearby communities attacked and killed residents in the community.
"The situation there is still one that is of grave concern and there should not be at this time any consideration of ending the zone of special operations."
According to the prime minister, there have been sustained interventions by the security forces in west Kingston in the past but they did not result in a permanent transformation of those communities. "It is not the intention this time for the Government to make the investment in securing these communities and not come away assured that we have, once
and for all, fundamentally transformed those communities."
He pointed out that the security forces in Mount Salem have been successful in arresting wanted men at the outset and also seizing illegal firearms. At this point, he said that the community still had some public-order issues but had transitioned into another phase.
In his contribution to the debate, member of parliament for Clarendon Northern, Horace Dalley, called on the Government to share with Parliament the expenditure on the ZOSOs since they were implemented last year.
However, Holness indicated that the expenditure on ZOSOs would not be divulged openly owing to security concerns. He said that the Opposition could be apprised of the information at a meeting of the National Security Council.
He urged the prime minister to ensure that the Internal and External Affairs Committee of Parliament was appointed and that a meeting be held in camera so that lawmakers could share with the security forces concerns that could not be disclosed publicly.