Tue | Nov 13, 2018

Fallacy! - PM rejects charge that law-abiding citizens are at the mercy of criminals because of security measures

Published:Wednesday | September 19, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

Law-abiding Jamaicans have been left at the mercy of criminals because critical state resources are being diverted to support the government's two main anti-crime measures, the zones of special operations (ZOSO) and the State of Public Emergency, some Opposition parliamentarians have complained.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, however, rejected the complaint as a "fallacy" before declaring that the measures have resulted in a 21 per cent decline in the country's murder rate.

"Two hundred and forty five Jamaicans are alive as a result of the efficient deployment and use of these resources," Holness insisted, making reference to the difference in the number of murders recorded so far this year and the figure recorded for the corresponding period last year.

The exchange came as parliamentarians on both sides voted unanimously for another three-month extension of the ZOSO imposed in the west Kingston community of Denham Town in Gordon House yesterday. The anti-crime measure, which was scheduled to end on October 2, will now remain in place until January 2 next year.

MURDER CAPITAL OF JAMAICA

In the meantime, since the start of the year, 104 persons have been killed in Westmoreland, the fourth straight year the parish has recorded over 100 murders.

Using the Little London Police Station in the parish as an example, Member of Parliament for western Westmoreland Dr Wykeham McNeill said he was informed that ten police personnel are stationed there, five on each shift.

"What happen is that two of them are deployed to Montpelier (St James) to man the site of the state of emergency. So what is happening is I'm left with three, one (of whom) is at the desk, in an area that is now being described as the murder capital of Jamaica," he said.

"I'm finding it harder and harder to support these extensions [of the ZOSO] when it is causing problems in my constituency and my parish," he said, while giving his support for the extension of the Denham Town ZOSO.

But Holness, while lauding McNeil for looking out for the interest of his constituents, questioned "how does he reconcile the position of those people who cower under their beds being deprived of their rights every single day by gunmen who shoot-up their communities."

Mark Golding, Member of Parliament for South St Andrew, charged that in addition to other security assets, a total of 31 police personnel were redeployed from the West Kingston Police Division to communities where the enhanced security measures are in place.

"The effect of this is, of course, that there is not the same level of security personnel to patrol and to respond to issues of security on the ground in the other parts of the Kingston West Division," said Golding, noting that the division is responsible for policing his constituency.

He added, "It is not acceptable to the people of the communities I represent that their security assets are deployed elsewhere while they are living without street lights and with enhanced insecurity."

However, the prime minister explained that deployment has to match critical areas that have the greatest impact on the crime problem. "We have to look at all the communities and take a strategic approach," he said.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com