Wed | Mar 20, 2019

SOE clawed St James from the brink, says Chang

Published:Tuesday | January 22, 2019 | 12:19 AM
Dr Horace Chang

With nine days to go before the state of emergency (SOE) in St James expires, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has led an impassioned defence of the crime-suppressing measure as an effective method of staunching the tide of murder that drenched the parish.

After a record year of murders in 2017, the governor general declared a state of emergency in the northwestern parish in January 2018. The intervention sparked a 70 per cent decline in murders and contributed to a 22 per cent decline nationally.

“We have had the state of public emergency in St James for just about a year,” said Chang while addressing a community meeting in Norwood in St James. “It wasn’t perfect, but I think everybody would agree with me that the level of killing and murders that was happening has been significantly reduced and the community was feeling much safer than they were before.”

According to Chang, weeks-long detentions were crucial in insulating residents of crime-plagued communities from major violence producers and building trust in the security forces.

He deplored the spate of reprisals, largely linked to gang warfare and lottery scamming, as evidence of a crisis of values in Jamaica.

“My position is, I don’t like going to funerals. This killing thing has become a horrible part of Jamaica’s existence,” said Chang. “Not everybody is perfect, and there will be some activities that may be termed illegal, but you don’t have to kill each other. Hopefully, we could get to a stage where Jamaicans begin to value and respect each other’s lives some more.”

According to Chang, who is member of parliament for North West St James, where Norwood is located, the Government is concerned at the lack of worth placed on human life, resulting in persons being killed over simple disagreements.

“We are going to look at how we can begin to change impact and behaviour,” said Chang. “When you have a contentious argument, it’s not to kill each other, [but] to find a different method, a different way of settling these things. We see boyfriend killing girlfriend, babyfather killing their babymother, and there is too much of a tendency to hurt each other. We are all brothers and sisters, one Jamaica.”

Chang said the Government is committed to stopping corporal punishment in schools as part of an effort to develop a sense of respect for the dignity of life. He said churches and community-based organisations will be engaged as part of the effort to instil positive influences on the nation’s children.

“We will reach those who go to church in church, reach them in the youth club, reach them in service clubs, wherever we can reach them, because we have to begin to influence them,” said Chang.