Wed | Aug 15, 2018

Keep the peace - Residents in ZOSOs implored to allow social intervention programmes to flow freely

Published:Sunday | March 25, 2018 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson
Omar Sweeney
Gladstone Taylor / Photographer Two children walking home from school in Denham Town, West Kingston, which is now under a Zone of Special Operations.
Gladstone Taylor/Photographer Social intervention programmes underway in Denham Town, West Kingston, as part of the Zone of Special Operations.

Residents within the zones of special operations (ZOSO) in Denham Town, Kingston, and Mount Salem, St James, are being asked to "keep the peace" and allow the social-intervention programmes to flow without any hindrance, as the operation enters its final phase, and the number of security officers in the communities begin to decrease.

"The word to the residents is for them to support the programmes by keeping the peace, and for them to really show that their communities can be models of how communities can be developed," said Omar Sweeney, managing director of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).

"There will always be threats to the peace. We have to always focus on the fact that those activities can still occur. The build phase doesn't mean the end of the security measures," he said.

Last week, Sweeney said the ZOSOs in Kingston and St James had completed the 'clear and hold' phases and were now in the 'build' stage, which is primarily the task of social intervention groups and committed residents - not so much the security forces.




Already, Sweeney said JSIF and other social groups have been offering a host of community development initiatives, including the zinc fence removal project, cleaning and clearing gullies, regularising waste disposal and utility systems, and securing birth certificates for residents.

Some unemployed residents have also been offered skills training and short-term jobs; but it is highly difficult, Sweeney said, to ask companies to enter the communities and dole out jobs to residents.

"The one thing that people often complain about, which is not necessarily 100 per cent our remit, is that people want jobs," he explained. "What we are targeting now in the communities are the shops, the small, micro-businesses. They are going to be eligible to receive a grant of anywhere between one million and $25 million, depending on their size."

He said the money will go towards helping business owners with the preparing of business plans, managing their accounting, and towards assisting in securing support from outside donors. He believes the grant will help to bolster internal employment.

"We are not going to give you cash to buy stock to put in your shops. That's not what this is. This is an investment to make sure that the business can be more viable and increase in its profitability," he said, noting that the build phase is not short term but will take as much as three years.




Meanwhile, Inspector Dian Bartley, Jamaica Constabulary Force communication officer for the zones, said that while there will be a decrease in the number of security force operatives, residents need not be fearful as the police have put measures in place to address potential flare-ups.

"It is expected that where there is sustained development taking place in communities, the need for that glorification of the don will not be there," she said.

"The number of the security forces may be reduced but they will not be removed. That is the assurance we give to the citizens. There is no more need for a high volume of enforcement officers."