Thu | Aug 24, 2017

Low turnout for special zones protest

Published:Saturday | July 8, 2017 | 7:00 AM
A policeman removes a placard that was placed outside of Parliament by protesters on Thursday.

The leadership of the Senate on the Government side on Thursday opted to debate the Integrity Commission Act instead of the highly anticipated Zones of Special Operations bill, much to the surprise of the Opposition which claimed it was dissatisfied with the decision.

Last week, the Government pushed vigorously for the passage of the bill in the Lower House, even as the Opposition, expressed concern about whether the various submissions made by interest groups would be represented in the proposed law.

The new legislation has been crafted as the Government's latest response to crime, with zones of special operations declared to tackle threats to the rule of law and order by criminals who unleash acts of violence against residents in communities.

 

FIRST TO BE DEBATED

 

On Thursday, Senator Mark Golding, leader of opposition business in the Senate, said that while it was the prerogative of the Government to decide which item on the agenda is debated, the Zones of Special Operations bill was listed as the first to be debated.

"We are aware that the Government has been rushing through the Zones of Special Operations bill and we are all prepared for that today (yesterday)," he said.

However, Senator Ruel Reid, acting leader of government business, said the two bills were on the agenda and "it was the Government's prerogative to determine how they are scheduled".

And, while parliamentarians were inside Gordon House deliberating on the nation's business, human rights activist Lloyd D'Aguilar would not be deterred by the handful that turned out alongside him to protest the Government's plan to establish special zones of operations throughout the island.

D'Aguilar and a group of about 10 protesters came together on the outskirts of Gordon House in downtown Kingston declaring their disdain for the plan, ahead of it being debated by the Senate.

The Zones of Special Operations bill was set for debate in the Senate yesterday.

D'Aguilar and police personnel also engaged in heated verbal exchanges as the lawmen attempted to persuade him to stay at least 200 yards from the parliamentary building with his placards and protesters.

"I could care less about the turnout. Jamaicans should be ashamed about this handful of people. We are here to educate people, so we don't worry about the numbers."