Party supporters pushed back
The usual close interaction between parliamentarians and zealous party supporters who turn out in their numbers for the ceremonial opening of Parliament each year to cheer on their political representatives might gradually become a thing of the past.
Members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) will, on Thursday, strictly apply the letter of the law as it relates to the 200-yard distance at which persons can gather to observe the state opening of Parliament.
"We are now enforcing the law. I don't want to say that anybody before was not doing it, but the recent experience at the swearing in of the members of parliament and Senate would have reminded us that it is always good to work with what the law says," Senior Superintendent of Police Terrence Bent, who is in charge of the Police Area Four Division, told The Gleaner.
In previous state openings of Parliament, People's National Party (PNP) supporters would congregate at Beeston and Duke streets, while Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporters would converge on Charles and Duke streets. These areas were within the 200-yard radius prescribed by the Public Order Act.
Bent argued that as a proactive body, the JCF has looked at events globally and is taking its cue from those incidents in an effort to further secure the persons who run the business of government.
"I just want to take this opportunity to ask the party supporters and the persons who have traditionally been able to come close to just understand the mindset that we are in, and just ask for their cooperation as we transform the security of the Parliament building, all the members of Parliament, visitors and the governor general, in a more secure environment."
However, Bent said everything would be done to facilitate some interaction between parliamentarians and their supporters.
Traditionally, JLP MPs march down Duke Street from the headquarters of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, while PNP parliamentarians walk up Duke Street from the easterly end.
At Thursday's state opening of Parliament, the police will institute strict boundaries at the northern end at the intersection of North and Duke Streets, while the southern boundary will be located at the intersection of Duke and Sutton streets.
"We will have King Street and Beeston Street as western boundary, and East Street and Beeston is the eastern boundary. Within those areas there are no-parking zones along those streets," Bent said.
He asked persons who would be affected by the changes to appreciate the significance of the Parliament building, noting that if persons wanted to harm the country's leaders, they would "want to hide within the jubilation and the excitement of lawful citizens and party supporters to do that, so we are creating a more sterile environment".
At the opening of Parliament in March, supporters of the PNP hurled insults at JLP MPs, while JLP supporters broke through the barriers erected at Charles and Duke streets.