ZOSO extended in Mount Salem
Government and opposition lawmakers yesterday gave their unswerving support to a further 60-day extension of the zone of special operations (ZOSO) in Mount Salem, St James.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle in the House of Representatives approved a resolution to extend the zone in Mount Salem.
At the end of the first two months of operations in the first zone to be declared, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said residents have showed a willingness to partner with the State to remove persons who are purveyors of violence. He indicated that the support of residents was important in the recovery of firearms and to identify illegal immigrants, particularly from Haiti.
Highlighting positives emanating from ZOSO in Mount Salem, Holness said there were no reported incidents between the citizens and the joint forces and there were no incidents of shooting, murder or serious crime.
Holness told his parliamentary colleagues that much of the work done to date was focused on clearing and holding the space, arguing that more time was needed to concentrate on the building phase, during which the Social Intervention Committee would be given the space to continue the work they had already started.
"To the extent that the preservation of life and the restoration of the community's confidence in legitimate state structures were highlighted as being of utmost importance, the Mount Salem zone should be considered as a successful endeavour," he said.
FACING NATIONAL CRISIS
The prime minister used the opportunity to remind Jamaicans that the country was facing a national crisis, which he said had reached epidemic proportions in terms of the prevalence and ease with which criminals had access to guns and ammunition.
"The Government considers this to be a national emergency and will expand on the strategies to deal with this issue at a later date," he said.
The head of Government pointed to the rising murder rate, noting that it now stands at approximately 300 more than the corresponding period last year.
According to Holness, the factors driving crime were well known, such as gang warfare compounded by extortion, lottery scamming, drugs and contract killings, which all account for more than 70 per cent of murders, with some estimates as high as 80 per cent.
He said the inability to resolve conflicts peacefully was also a contributory factor to the high level of murders.
Commenting on the latest ZOSO that was declared in Denham Town about two weeks ago, the prime minister said the joint forces have arrested seven known violence producers within the zone.
Holness accepted a recommendation from Opposition Spokesman on National Security Fitz Jackson, who urged the Government to provide tangible assistance to communities faced with serious infrastructure problems and other critical needs but were not beset by rampant criminality.
Jackson argued that there was the view that communities plagued by violence received urgent government support, while those communities that played by the rules were often overlooked.