Black Immigrant Daily News
“I will not stop” and “there will always be SOEs (states of emergency)”.
That was the declaration of Prime Minister Andrew Holness Tuesday morning as he answered questions from journalists at a Jamaica House media briefing, shortly after declaring another round of SOEs for eight parishes.
“As long as it’s needed, this government will use states of emergency,” Holness said.
Having previously stated that SOEs would be needed for at least seven years to break the back of crime in Jamaica, Holness was asked for how much longer the Government contemplated keeping the emergency measure in place.
“Let’s be clear, every country needs to have in its back pocket, emergency powers. It’s the last resort through the legal and constitutional process to exercise the full force of the state to protect itself,” Holness said.
He argued that “this notion that you can’t use the SOE is a rubbish notion”.
Continuing, the prime minister said: “If the state is under threat as it is now, people don’t realise it because we’ve so far managed it very well, but there are several states in this region which are under threat and they have reacted in far more stringent ways than this government has.”
Holness pointed to Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras, whose governments have taken strong action to rein in rampant criminality.
Asking rhetorically whether SOEs are needed, the prime minister answered his question in the affirmative.
“There will always be SOEs,” he declared, adding that “France has an SOE for two years straight”.
Holness argued that “countries which we seek to pattern, they have ongoing states of emergency in different areas to combat different issues; it’s a reality”.
As to whether it was something that the country wants to do forever, Holness said: “Absolutely not.”
But, he said the constitution needs to be upgraded to reflect the current realities, so that those powers can be easily and effectively used when the circumstances require them.
And, the prime minister lashed the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) for withholding its support from the SOEs that resulted in the security measure that was declared for seven parishes on November 15 expiring on November 29.
He accused the Opposition of not caring about saving lives.
Holness said that there are those among us who either live in a dream world, or are bent on “tricking the population”.
“But, I live in the world of reality, and the reality is that there is organised criminal violence that is at a level that threatens the State; it threatens the security and safety of every Jamaican,” he said.
Added Holness: “The people who complain about the SOEs are not the people who benefit from them in the communities where they have to hide under their beds, hide their daughters, can’t go to church, and they see their sons and boyfriends and husbands killed. That’s the reality”.
The prime minister said the Government is trying to build capacity to respond to the security threat without the suspension of, or abrogation, or abridging of any rights that would normally apply.
Returning to the PNP, he said: “Those who take comfort that the Opposition will continue to derail the Government’s attempts to save lives and reduce violence, there’s no such comfort to be had because the Government will be relentless on all fronts to combat your criminal and violent intent”.
The latest round of SOEs are now in effect for an initial two weeks in specified areas of Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, St Ann, and Clarendon, as well as the tri-parish area of St James, Westmoreland and Hanover.
The parish of St Ann and the St Andrew Central police division have been newly added to the latest iteration of SOEs.