Tue | Mar 21, 2023

A sustained SOE necessary

Published:Thursday | July 18, 2019 | 12:18 AM


Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in his defence of the states of emergency (SOE) in the House on Tuesday, made a very important point, one that has been lost in the never-ending politicisation of crime: we need states of emergency for five to seven years to bring murders to acceptable levels. Essentially, what that means is, we are beyond the point where normal policing can work.

We have been past the point of normal policing methods since the early 1990s, at least. We can argue all we want about normal policing methods, but it will not change the fact that criminality in Jamaica has evolved faster than the State’s apparatus tasked with containing and stopping it has.

In 1962, Jamaica’s murder rate was 3.9 per 100,000, one of the lowest in the world. By 2005, we were up to 58 per 100,000. In 43 years, Jamaica’s murder rate shot up nearly 15 times what it was when it gain Independence! In any other country that would have warranted a state of emergency, or multiple ones!


I have maintained that in order to get the police up to speed with these savvy and intelligent criminals we now have, we need something like the SOE. The SOE gives the police and the State, civil society and all concerned, time to catch up and implement strategies that will thwart the future acts of criminals. Normal policing cannot do that.

The argument about using intelligence and modernising the force and all that sounds good. However, that takes time. The question we must all ask ourselves is what do we do in the meantime? Do we watch our brothers and sisters getting murdered? Do we run to God to help us? Or do we declare some SOEs?

Holness has chosen the latter. And I agree with him. So do many thousands of Jamaicans also.

Where PM Holness and I differ is in the length of time we should use this method. He says five to seven years. I say seven to 12. However, the important thing is that we use it, and use it for as long as is necessary.

Fabian Lewis