Opposition will not support further extensions of SOEs - Phillips
The Parliamentary Opposition says it will not support further extensions of the States of Public Emergency in St James and in the St Catherine North Police Division.
“I think that the Government should hear and hear clearly that we are not prepared to extend beyond the current request, unless there are some overwhelming reasons presented for the consideration of the public,” Phillips declared this morning at a press conference held at the People’s National Party's headquarters on Old Hope Road in St Andrew.
The opposition leader said the government should produce a clear plan of action which will enable “normal policing to contain crime in St James and the other parts of the country.”
He charged that in the St Andrew South Police Division there was a 260 per cent increase in murders and that parts of Westmoreland also recorded an upsurge in homicides.
“We don’t think it is sound policy to have this concentration in two areas while the citizens in the rest of the country are facing this intolerable increase in the levels of crimes.”
Phillips argued that the framers of the Constitution did not intend for a State of Public Emergency to be employed over a lengthy period of time.
“That is why there is the provision for a two-week declaration in the first instance and an extension only by periods of 30 days. These are enormous powers that are provided for in a matter highlighted perhaps most strikingly by the so-called Keith Clarke issue. The security forces have tremendous powers in circumstances like this”.
Clarke was fatally shot by members of the security forces at his upper St Andrew home in the wake of the State of Public Emergency in 2010.
Members of the security forces were searching for then reputed Tivoli strongman Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.
Phillips said the Opposition had great concerns about the extent to which these powers were being employed “in a way that negatively affects the rights of thousands of young men in particular, in various parts of the country.”
“At the same time, we are not intending to place the security forces in an intolerable position by simply removing the state of emergency by virtue of the action of the operation,” he added.
On January 30 the Lower House approved a resolution to extend the State of Public Emergency in St. James until May 2, 2018.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in his contribution to the debate on the resolution, had explained that the extension was necessary as more time was required for the security forces to carry out operations in the parish.
The Parliament also granted an extension to the State of Public Emergency in St Catherine North Police Division until July 3 this year.