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Blame Bunting, says Holness - Opposition leader says failure to support state of emergency reason for crime spike

Published:Tuesday | November 3, 2015 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness is claiming that the decision by the parliamentary Opposition in 2010 not to grant a second extension to a state of emergency was the main reason for Jamaica's spiralling crime rate.

Holness, who was then a member of the Bruce Golding-led Cabinet which imposed the state of emergency at the same time the security forces moved to arrest crime boss Christopher 'Dudus' Coke in west Kingston, said the Government wanted to give the reach of the state of emergency to as far as St James and Westmoreland.

"Had we made the strides that that period gave us, Jamaica would have been a far better place as it relates to crime," Holness said.

He said that had the state of emergency been allowed to continue in St Catherine and extend to Clarendon, it would have given the security forces the ability to erode and uproot criminal networks.

Holness told journalists yesterday that he was still angry at Bunting for not supporting the move to extend the state of emergency.

However, Bunting said when he voted on the issue five years ago, he exercised his best judgement.

"The Constitution sets out the conditions that would prevail to necessitate a state of emergency or to extend the state of emergency. The Opposition cooperated in the first extension of the state of emergency. The condition no longer existed at the time the second extension came up," Bunting told the House of Representatives yesterday.

With six absent from the parliamentary sitting in 2010, the Government needed support from the Opposition to secure the extension. All 25 government ministers present voted for the extension, while the 18 Opposition members in chamber abstained. Seventeen members were absent.

Under the Constitution, at least 31 of the 60 members of parliament must give the thumbs up for a state of public emergency to be extended. There were 32 government members in the House of Representatives. (The Lower House has since been increased to 63 seats).

Following the state of emergency in west Kingston, amid the security operations to capture Coke in May 2010, the Government extended the measure to St Catherine for one month.


Opposition voted against


However, when the Government sought a second extension, opposition MPs voted against it. The Government was seeking to extend the emergency regime until August 21, 2010.

At the time, Bunting told journalists during a hastily convened press briefing that the Opposition was prepared to have the state of emergency extended beyond Independence Day, August 6.

"We offered to accept a compromise position of an extension for 15 days, and during this time, we would ask to have a briefing from the minister of national security, as well as the chief of defence staff and the commissioner of police.

"We would be prepared, if we felt it was justified, to extend for a further 15 days to achieve the 30 days that had been requested. The Government took the position that either we agree to the 30-day extension at one shot or there is nothing at all," Bunting said.