Dark day in MoBay - Stakeholders concerned with halt to SOE in St James
Montego Bay Mayor Homer Davis has expressed dismay and disappointment at the parliamentary Opposition's vote against the continuation of the state of public emergency (SOE) in St James.
"My position is ... that the people are in shock and disbelief and are very disappointed in the way in which the Opposition voted against the SOE. Today is a dark day in the parish of St James," said Davis.
"There's a saying that he who feels it knows it, and we've lived it, we've experienced it, and I've had to bury long-standing friends who have been wantonly murdered. I'm not saying the SOE should be there forever, but allow the security forces to build out the necessary infrastructure, personnel, and technology that will be required to monitor and police St James."
During Tuesday night's marathon debate in Parliament about extending the SOE in St James,
St Catherine North, and sections of the Corporate Area, the Government failed to get a two-thirds majority for an additional 90 days.
The Opposition was adamant that the enhanced security measure was not in the best interest of the country and its citizens.
However, both government and opposition members voted to extend the zone of special operations in Mt Salem, St James, and the west Kingston community of Denham Town.
Not a long-term strategy but ...
While admitting that there is need for a long-term crime fighting strategy, members of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) and the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) said that they would have wanted the extension of the SOE for at least three months, which would see St James under lockdown until April 2019.
"The results of the SOE have been very positive, with a significant reduction in murder, which is the first in a long time. It also brought back a certain level of discipline to the city," stated JHTA President Omar Robinson.
"We agree that the SOE is not a long-term crime-fighting strategy, which has to eventually come to an end, but we are very concerned as to what will happen without an effective transition," he argued in a media release yesterday.
MBCCI President Winston Lawson is imploring the Houses of Parliament to work together to rectify the situation.
Lauding the tremendous work of the joint security forces since the advent of the SOE, he said that the relentless collaborative and intelligent crime-fighting strategy was necessary during the extension to demonstrate to criminals "that we are unambiguous about eradicating this monster".
Lawson said business interests and the citizens of St James are resolute that they must never return to the horrific conditions of lawlessness that were experienced pre-SOE.
Attorney-at-Law and past president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce Nathan Robb has expressed mixed views about the issue.
"I fully supported the state of emergency and had called for it when it first was introduced. However, the passage of time has dictated that some finality be put to the state of emergency," Robb told The Gleaner.
"Because while I admit that murder, in particular, has been down and can be attributed to the blanket coverings by the army and the police, my concern is that almost one year later, the people of St James have not been assured, have not been given any direct plan, as to policing after the state of emergency," he added.
Since the SOE was implemented in January, there has been a marked reduction in murders in the parish of St James. Police reports show a 72 per cent reduction in comparison to the similar period last year or 96 murders compared to 317.
The St James SOE will end on January 31, 2019.