Prime Minister Bruce Golding has condemned the "calculated assault on the authority of the state" and vowed that the security forces will use deadly force in a limited state of public emergency to counter thugs who have wreaked havoc on the capital.
"Let us make no mistake. The threats that have emerged to the safety and security of our people will be repelled with strong and decisive action.
"... This will be a turning point for us as a nation to confront the powers of evil that have penalised the society and earned us the unenviable label as one of the murder capitals of the world. We must confront this criminal element with determination and unqualified resolve."
The prime minister sought to assure Jamaicans that the city was "not being shut down" and that there should be business as usual after today's Labour Day holiday. Schools will reopen on Tuesday, Golding said.
The Government yesterday declared a state of public emergency for the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew, as tension mounted in the Jamaican capital over the extradition flashpoint involving Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.
The decision was made yesterday after Golding called his team to an emergency meeting at Jamaica House to discuss security concerns across the southeastern city.
The state of emergency will remain in place for one month and may be adjusted by Parliament.
The Jamaican Constitution provides that a period of public emergency may be declared if the nation is either at war; or there is in force a proclamation by the governor general declaring that a state of public emergency exists; or there is in force a resolution of each House, supported by the votes of a majority of all the members of that House, declaring that democratic institutions in Jamaica are threatened by subversion.
"The Cabinet took the decision to advise the governor general to issue a proclamation pursuant to Section 26 of the Constitution declaring that a state of public emergency exists in the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew," the prime minister said in a statement to the press yesterday afternoon.
A senior Cabinet member told The Gleaner yesterday that Cabinet met in a "sombre, but decisive mood".
The government minister, re-questing anonymity, said the Cabinet was "concerned and worried about innocent people who may be caught up in this whole thing". However, the minister defended the decision to enforce a state of emergency, explaining that "the situation is such that the Government has to demonstrate leadership and take control".
In a response to the emergency measures, Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller said yesterday, "We are alarmed that no curfew was imposed in any of those areas while breaches of the public order were allowed to escalate. This took place in certain communities with targeted criminal groups taking the attack to the security forces.
"I would urge that a civilian oversight mechanism be established to monitor the application of the emergency powers by the security forces," she added.
Earlier, the Jamaica Constabulary Force appealed for Coke to turn himself in. They also asked women and children to leave the community.
The police condemned the actions of gunmen who barricaded a number of roads into the communities, describing it as as "an act of cowardice on the part of selfish criminal elements, mainly Mr Christopher Coke".
The police said that by barricading the community, "criminal elements are putting the safety and well-being of citizens, including women, children and the elderly, at grave risk".
Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington said the security forces will respond with appropriate action. He said that images of barricades, other defensive positions, together with "credible intelligence, indicate that scores of criminals from several gangs across the island have joined criminal elements in Tivoli Gardens".
"It is now clear that criminal elements are determined to launch coordinated attacks on the security forces," Ellington said before darkness descended on the capital yesterday.