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What's a State of Emergency? ... things you should know

Published:Thursday | January 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Prime Minister Andrew Holness this afternoon declared a state of public emergency for the parish of St James.

It’s in response to rampant criminality including murders and shooting in the parish.

Last year, St James recorded 335 murders, the highest ever total and since the start of the year, murders and shootings have continued.

Here are some facts you should know.

What is a State of Emergency?
Section 26 of the Constitution explains a "period of public emergency" as any period during which:
a. Jamaica is engaged in any war
b. There is in force a proclamation by the governor general declaring that a state of public emergency exists
c. 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.

When can it be declared?
1. When a state of war between Jamaica and a foreign state is imminent
2. As a result of the occurrence of any earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire, outbreak of pestilence, outbreak of infectious disease, or other calamity
3. When action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any person an such an extensive scale it could likely endanger the public safety or deprive the community, or any substantial portion of the community of supplies or services essential to life.

What does it mean?
1. Extraordinary powers have been given to the security forces
2. Some rights have been suspended.
3. Members of the security forces may search places without a warrant. 

The proclamation shall remain in force for a period of one month unless extended by the House of Representatives or revoked.

History of State of Emergency in Jamaica
1. October 1966: State of Emergency in West Kingston - violence
2. June 1976: State of Public Emergency - violence
3. September 2004: State of Emergency - after Hurricane Ivan
4. May 2010: In advance of the attempt  to arrest Christopher 'Dudus' Coke on an extradition warrant.

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