Wed | Dec 1, 2021

SOE extension jumps first hurdle

Published:Wednesday | November 24, 2021 | 12:14 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

An arduous and sometimes raucous hours-long debate on the extension of states of public emergency (SOEs) ended with the Government side easily passing the measure with its superior majority, while the parliamentary Opposition slammed the Holness administration for pushing Jamaica closer to a police state.

When the vote was taken, 46 lawmakers on the Government side voted in favour of the resolution, while two Opposition members voted against it.

Accusing the Opposition of playing politics with the SOEs, Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Tuesday night blasted his political opponents for failing to support the measure.

Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding told members of the Lower House that he received a legal opinion from a leading Queen's Counsel who reasoned that the new forms of regulation continue to violate the Constitution.

In a quick response, Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte challenged the opinion, saying it was “plainly false” to say that the new regulations violated the Constitution.

Malahoo Forte also challenged claims by the Opposition that the legislature could not amend laws while the matter was pending appeal, citing an October 31, 2016, judgment by the Privy Council.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck also chided Golding for his remarks, saying he was disappointed that the opposition leader had claimed that the SOEs are unconstitutional.

But Golding insisted that the judgment in relation to the detention of persons under the SOEs was replete with dicta criticising the way in which the SOE was utilised, “juxtaposing it to constitutional provisions and making statements of law to the effect that it was not compliant”.

However, Malahoo Forte reminded both Chuck and Golding that the matter was still before the court and, therefore, they should desist from debating the issue.

But the prime minister insisted that the Government's declaration of SOEs was to protect the lives of Jamaicans.

He explained that under the SOEs, the military could operate independently, boosting the number of law enforcement to take on peacekeeping tasks for extended periods.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com