Sun | Jun 16, 2019

Holness: Don’t get comfortable

Published:Monday | February 25, 2019 | 12:15 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

While the Holness administration is pointing to the Opposition’s vote against extending the now-defunct states of public emergency (SOEs) last December as the reason for rising levels of crime in parts of the country, the prime minister is warning criminals not to take comfort in the end of the initiatives.

“Let me make it absolutely clear to those criminals who believe that, by virtue of the vote in Parliament, they have political cover: take no such comfort,” said Holness at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Closed Harbour Beach Park in Montego Bay last Friday.

“Even if the Opposition feels that it is their duty to offer comfort to those who will cause you discomfort, we will act,” Holness declared.

“I am observing very closely what is happening in the city and, indeed, right across the country, and I am seeing a return to the level of lawlessness that existed before the declaration of the state of public emergency,” he said.

On January 18 last year, a state of public emergency was declared in St James, following an unprecedented murder tally of 341 for 2017. Another was later declared in parts of Kingston and St Andrew and St Catherine. The Opposition withdrew its support for the measure last December, citing rights breaches and what it said was the Government’s failure to produce a long-term plan to tackle crime.

“We in this city, a year ago, literally faced the collapse of public order and the rule of law in Montego Bay,” Holness said. “The Government had to act and we acted decisively, so that we could preserve the individual freedom of the citizens of Montego Bay.

“Some among us do not see it that way. Not everyone sees the importance of public order; there is a political debate,” Holness said.

Addressing a conference staged by the Jamaica Labour Party’s affiliate youth arm, Young Jamaica, in Montego Bay on Saturday, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang said the Opposition’s decision not to support the extension of the SOEs was at the root of rising crime. He said police intelligence shows that the murders are being committed by some of the persons who were detained under the SOE.

“The narrative out there is that the Government was sweeping up young black youths from off the streets and locking them up without charging them, which was a big lie being propagated by the PNP,” Chang said.

“As minister of national security, I will ensure that the reduction in homicides in St James and other parts of the country during the state of public emergency be maintained, irrespective of what the PNP does,” he vowed.