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Is it worth it? - PNP questions whether country getting value for money from SOE

Published:Monday | July 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Gleaner Writer
People's National Party President Dr Peter Phillips is greeted by National Executive Council members after a meeting at the University of the West Indies in St Andrew, yesterday.


The parliamentary Opposition is questioning whether the state of public emergency imposed in St James since January is providing value for money.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, who raised the issue yesterday, stressed that taxpayers were paying $30.6 million per month - or just over $210 million - for the seven-month period on the police side of the operations.

Despite this, Phillips noted that only 138, or five per cent, of the 2,672 persons detained since the operations began in January have been charged with any criminal offence, including 20 gang members.

"All we are saying is, given that it's only 20 gang members that have been charged, given that there is the anti-gang legislation in place, and given that we are using 600 police a week in the operations who are not available to go elsewhere, are we getting the best value for the country's anti-crime efforts from the state of emergency?" he questioned.

Phillips made it clear that the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) supports the state of emergency but hinted that this would not always be the case and urged the Andrew Holness administration to give a clear timeline as to when it would end.

"There may come some time when we decide that it can't go on, but so far, what we have been saying to the Government is, 'Don't use a state of emergency like a weapon and simply make the issue are you supporting it or you are not supporting it'," he said at the end of a meeting of the PNP's National Executive Committee.

"Ninety-nine per cent of the persons detained had their rights trampled on for no reason. It [state of emergency] is an approach to policing that disregards and disrespects the basic rights of the people, and it was not intended by the Constitution to be a long-term solution," the PNP president added.

Asked why the PNP has retained support for the state of emergency despite the concerns, Phillips said that the party does not want to leave residents in affected communities "naked".

"Were you to close down the security presence and create an environment where there is no evident restraint on the criminals being provided, we would have made the lives of the citizens unsafe," he explained.