EMERGENCY! | Lead Stories – Jamaica Gleaner

While staunchly defending the reimposition of states of emergency (SOEs) on Sunday, a combative Prime Minister Andrew Holness argued that his administration would not stand by and do nothing in the face of a tidal wave of deadly crime.
In reclaiming a tool last used in the summer of 2020, Holness insisted that the bloodshed was of such an extensive scale that it threatened public safety.
The blanket activation of SOEs in more than one-third of the country’s police divisions was not lost on the Jamaica Police Federation, which represents the rank-and-file of the force that will provide the muscle behind the crime fight.
Corporal Rohan James, chairman of the federation, said that despite grand announcements, the State has not provided the logistical support and resources to allow its members to effectively execute their duties. He cited the long outstanding matter of overtime, which is currently before the court.
“There are welfare concerns that the federation will continue to champion, and I can tell you without any reservation that this Central Committee that I lead is not prepared to take the crap from our employer … .
“The only thing that our employer seeks to do to us when we make the sacrifice is to send us back files for misappropriation, corruption, as well fraud, and it cannot continue,” he warned.
The nature and frequency of the violence were also cited by the prime minister as reasons for the SOEs. However, the prime minister did not state why his administration had not acted earlier in the context of a 10 per cent year-on-year rise in murders that dates back several months.
But he appeared to buttress the weight of support for the SOEs on a new wave of “barbarity” and “savagery”.
“It is almost a competition for cruelty. The worst of the worst and appears to be designed and properly calculated to drive fear into the citizenry of the country and panic in communities.
“The Government cannot remain crippled. It cannot see these things happening and not take action,” he said.
Citing the beheading of 41-year-old reputed don Sherrod ‘Yannie’ Holness as an example of that savagery, Holness dwelt on the macabre and the morbid in a rising drumbeat to press home his point.
And the prime minister was keen to take a swipe at his political rivals in the more than-hour-long press confererence.
“What do I say to the family of that young man whose head was taken and kicked around? What does the Opposition say to them? Do we not all have a responsibility to save lives, and should we allow more people while we satisfy ourselves about an academic issue?”
“While the debate is legitimate, until the courts make a definitive ruling, the tool is legitimate and the Government has to respond to the emergency.”
Holness, who has in the past said SOEs may be used for up to seven years, also sought to use data as poweful and emotive indices of a nation in crisis.
Jamaica’s per-capita murder rate is almost triple the regional benchmark of 15 per 100,000 and seven times worse than the global bar of six per 100,000. The seven police divisions placed under SOEs – St Andrew South, St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, Kingston Western, Kingston Eastern, and Kingston Central have seen rises in killings by 16-57 per cent, with some registering per-capita murders of 47-100 per 100,000.
Describing Jamaica’s crime situation as a national emergency, Holness praised the efficacy of the Government’s pioneering use of SOEs to curtail violent crime. However, he acknowledged that the power of SOEs throughout 2019 and 2020 to clamp down on murders waned signficantly, blunted, he said, by its failure to be sustained over long periods.
Holness said that every society must have powers to deal with exceptional circumstances but argued that Jamaica’s current laws were insufficient and not properly crafted to deal with modern threats.
“Government has to jump through hoops to satisfy conditions, which ties its hands and makes it ineffective to give security to the citizen,” he said, adding that the Government was working behind the scenes to overhaul toothless laws.
But while the Government praised the security forces for their work, James lashed out at the administration for tapping what he deemed overworked law enforcers without properly addressing their welfare and well-being.
“I hope that good sense would prevail since I have called on the Government on numerous occasions for a holistic approach to be taken on the issue of national security and the welfare and well-being of the men and women, and I am hoping that since the Government had taken it unto itself to declare these additional responsibilities, that it will assume the responsibilities to treat with the membership welfare that has been languishing,” he added.
The federation chairman highlighted that officers are working extensive hours without being properly remunerated and are suffering from chronic ailments under subpar health policies.
“Notwithstanding the poor working conditions, we continue to subsidise national security, and I am saying those days are over and done with, our employer must be amenable to sitting at the table and for us to work out an amicable resolution treating on the country’s resources because without human resources capital, we cannot go forward and treat with other areas.
“It is time for the Government, our employer to stop abusing the resources and to place the resources where it’s most needed so as to advance growth and development and security,” he said.
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