Tue | Feb 19, 2019

'Too short notice' - Phillips says meeting PM on SOE's today not possible, proposes next week for discussions

Published:Wednesday | January 2, 2019 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (second left); Major General Rocky Meade (left), chief of defence staff; Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson (second right); and Colonel Roderick Williams, the newly named Plan Secure Jamaica coordinator in the Office of the National Security Adviser, exit after day two of a two-day security meeting at Vale Royal in St Andrew yesterday.
Colonel Roderick Williams
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The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has expressed surprise and scepticism that Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips won't be able to meet with Prime Minister Andrew Holness any earlier than January 7 to discuss issues surrounding the extension of the states of public emergency (SOEs) in sections of the island.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Monday issued a formal invitation for a meeting to be held with Phillips and his team today, but in a statement yesterday afternoon, Phillips contended that "given the short notice", a meeting today would not be possible.

Phillips further suggested that a preparatory group headed by his party's general secretary, Julian Robinson, meet immediately to settle arrangements for the meeting, to include the date, time, list of invitees, agenda for discussion, and other relevant matters.

"It's very interesting to note that the leader of the Opposition has delayed his interest in meeting until after two of the SOEs have expired," responded the OPM's director of communications, Robert Nesta Morgan.

The Opposition's decision to withdraw its support for the SOEs in St James, St Catherine North, and sections of the Corporate Area in December means that the three are set to expire on the 2nd, 7th and 31st, respectively, of this month.

"We were hoping that we could have dialogue urgently to discuss the matters so that we could find an amicable position and a solution to the issue so that we could consult with the Opposition and hear their grouses and whether there is anything that we could do to ensure that they are on board in the crime fight," he said.

"There is still time, however, for the leader of the Opposition to change his mind as the prime minister stands willing to meet with him and did make adjustments to his schedule to ensure that he would have had enough time to have fulsome and proper discussions with the leader of the Opposition tomorrow (today)."

Meanwhile, Holness, in an interview with The Gleaner yesterday, said the Government was doing all in its power to tame the crime monster without the use of emergency powers, even as he hangs on to hope that the Opposition will reconsider its position on the states of public emergency.

"We have lost an important tool, but we have not lost our motivation," Holness declared this afternoon moments after completing a series of consultations with the country's security chiefs at Vale Royal.

"The chiefs have met, and they have committed to me, and they will respectively commit to the nation to do as best as they can using the regular policing powers," he told The Gleaner.

The prime minister also announced the assignment of Colonel Roderick Williams of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) to lead the "intensified implementation phase" of Plan Secure Jamaica, the Government's multifaceted anti-crime initiative.

Williams, a 28-year veteran of the JDF, will occupy the role of coordinator in the Office of the National Security Adviser.

The role of national security adviser was first occupied by Major General Antony Anderson before he was appointed police commissioner. Holness has yet to announce a successor to Anderson.

syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com