Fri | Apr 19, 2019

Chang backs increase in security spending

Published:Friday | February 15, 2019 | 12:14 AM
Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke (left) in dialogue with Lieutenant General Rocky Meade, chief of defence staff of the Jamaica Defence Force, after the ceremonial opening of Parliament yesterday.

The Doubling of the capital expenditure for the security forces for the upcoming fiscal year will significantly boost their capacity to curb crime, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has said.

The allocation has moved to $7.4 billion, from $4 billion.

“Security is to get the largest [increase in the Budget] because we have a long way to go to catch up with the required equipment and infrastructure in order to reverse long years of neglect. We can’t do it all, but we are going to address a significant amount of it,” he told The Gleaner yesterday.

This will include continuation of repairs to police stations across the island and construction of new ones, Chang explained.

Turning to the proposed Enhanced Security Measures Act, he said that legislation is necessary as infrastructure investments are not likely to pay off immediately.

“So we think that given the current capacity of the security forces, we may still need to give them some additional powers so we can maximise their use. So the Enhanced Security Measures Act will be designed not to be as tough as the state of emergency. It will still go to Parliament but will not demand the totality of parliamentary support, in terms of a majority approval,” he said, adding that he expects the Opposition to support the passage of the act.

“The intention is to give the security forces enhanced powers without breaching the Constitution.”

While the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) had initially thrown its support behind two states of emergency declarations last year, which require a two-thirds backing of the Parliament, it withdrew its backing for the latest push to extend the enhanced security measures.

PNP WAITS

Fitz Jackson, opposition spokesperson on national security, said that although the party appreciates the general principle behind the proposed Enhanced Security Measures Act, he said that the PNP would await the final details before giving its support.

“Our concern is to not put any undue restriction on the rights and freedoms of Jamaican people, which the state of emergency would have done over an extended period of time. So, in short, we are waiting to see what it is to see if we are able to comment. We did say if we consider them reasonable and can assist, we would be able to give our support,” Jackson said.

He added that he believes that the zones of special operations could be helpful in reducing crime if effectively implemented.

“Regrettably, we believe that while there is a pronouncement, there is no commitment of resources to realise what the intentions are. The social interventions that are identified to be made, they are not done on a timely basis, and it is done in very limited communities ... . There are some areas that we believe the police presence on some sustained basis makes a difference, and we’ve encouraged that,” Jackson said.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm nickoy.wilson@gleanerjm.com