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PM offers condolences to US, calls for action to end gun violence

Published:Sunday | June 12, 2016 | 6:19 PM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

As the US deals with its worst mass gun killing in its history, Prime Minister Andrew Holness says the time has come for terrorism and gun violence to be dealt with decisively.

In expressing condolences to the people of the US, the prime minister said: “The people of Jamaica have been good friends and supporters of the people of the United States of America, you have stood with us constantly throughout our history and we stand with you today as you grieve and seek answers.”

Fifty people were killed and 53 others reported injured after a lone gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire in a gay club in Orlando, Florida this morning. It is the worst mass shooting to occur in the US.

In a condolence letter written to US Ambassador Luis G. Moreno, Prime Minister Holness said: “The world must finally to deal with terrorism and gun violence; which continues to scar our quest for peace and brotherhood among peoples.”

Drawing parallels with the mass gun killing in the US and the high crime rate in Jamaica, the prime minister noted that, "we are working with our United States partners to reduce the influx of guns into Jamaica as they too are constantly reminded of the impact of gun violence on their society."

Yesterday, the police announced that it would be launching a series of joint operations with the army, particularly in the western section of the island where there has been a spike in crimes, to deal with Jamaica's growing crime problem.

With almost six months gone in the year, the St James police have reported that more than 100 persons have been killed in the western parish. This represents a 27 per cent increase when compared with the 81 murders recorded for the corresponding period last year.

In the latest incidents, 44-year-old contractor Orrett Hutchinson of Barrett Town, Mount Zion, St James and 35-year-old Andre Palakai, a real estate agent from Ontario, Canada who was on a visit to Negril, Westmoreland, were killed in separate attacks on Friday.

The police report that the joint police-military operation in Westmoreland and St James since Thursday has resulted in 37 arrests, including six murder suspects. Twenty three illegal guns and 164 rounds of ammunition have so far been recovered.

"We are giving the law enforcement agencies the resources they need and support in other ways to ensure they can deal effectively with crime generally and murders in particular.  Our resolve is to see a consistent reduction in crime and we are working towards that aim," the prime minister stated.