'We are aware of all political risks' ... Phillips says in voting against SOE extensions
While acknowledging that the decision not to support an extension of the states of pubic emergency in three parishes could have dire political consequences, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips is resolute that his party did the right thing in upholding the constitutional rights of Jamaicans.
The parliamentary Opposition's vote on Tuesday in Gordon House against an extension of the states of emergency in St James, St Catherine north, and sections of Kingston, has exploded into a raging national debate, with a heated clash of opinions between various stakeholders and ordinary Jamaicans.
Yesterday, the People's National Party (PNP) president said plainly that the Opposition made the decision with its eyes wide open.
RESPECT RIGHTS OF CITIZENS
"We did not arrive at our decision lightly. We are aware of all the political risks that are involved, but there comes a time when you need to do the right thing, the lawful thing, the constitutionally approved thing rather than simply act in pursuit of political expediency," he said at a press conference at the party's St Andrew headquarters.
With the cessation of the states of emergency, Phillips argued that the security forces need not be withdrawn but should still be deployed in the areas that require their presence.
"There is a general misconception, an illusion that the ending of a state of emergency means that the police have to pack up all their equipment and send it back to Harman Barracks in town or Up Park Camp. It is not true. Nothing has to change," he said.
However, Phillips said that persons detained outside of a state of emergency would have to be brought before the courts within a reasonable time.
Under the state of emergency, he said that persons detained were not being given access to the tribunal set up to hear their complaints because the detention orders were not being signed.
"Jamaica has to learn that if we want a different future from the experience that we have had in the past, we are going to have to start to respect the rights of every single citizen. The rights of poor citizens are not any less than the rights of well-to-do citizens. The rights of the youths are no less than the older citizens," Phillips said.
Quizzed as to whether the PNP and the Jamaica Labour Party made attempts through the Vale Royal Talks mechanism to arrive at consensus in the interest of the country, Phillips said that his party was not invited to engage in such dialogue. "We have had no request to meet. I can't meet with myself," Phillips said.
In his comments, Spokesman on National Security Fitz Jackson contended that when it came to protecting the interest of Jamaicans, the Opposition had a responsibility to make the right decision regardless of the political price it might have to pay.
Yesterday, the members of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica held talks with the leadership of the Opposition on their decision not to vote for the extension of the states of emergency.