Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, says the use of States of Public Emergency (SOEs) has worked to reduce murders and shootings wherever they have been deployed.
“I remain proud of the fact that this Administration was able to deploy and implement a framework to enable our security forces to use extraordinary powers and enhanced measures without doing violence to any citizen or resulting in the death of any citizen,” he noted.
Holness, said that, importantly, the public views the SOEs as effective tools in improving their security and safety.
He noted that legal questions have been raised about the use of the SOEs and it is the intention of the Government to have those issues resolved.
He maintained that the Government, through the use of the SOEs and the longer-term Zones of Special Operations (SOZOs) is not trying to use extraordinary powers to abuse the people of Jamaica.
He said that the special security measures are designed and developed along the lines of classic peace-keeping missions, with the objective of disarming and dominating the space, controlling movement in and out, keeping gangs at bay, facilitating community life and social intervention, maintaining peace and winning the trust and respect of the citizens.
“The problem that we have is not only a police problem. The magnitude of the problem suggests a nation at war,” he said, noting that legislative changes are required “to mobilise in ways to do these kinds of peace-keeping and development operations”.
Holness told the House that the most pressing matter of concern for most Jamaicans regarding security is the murder rate and its increasing intractable nature.
“We can report that we ended 2020 with fewer murders than the previous year and since 2018, we have essentially flattened the murder curve,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister commended the security forces for the supporting role they have been playing in the management of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Increasingly, our police and military are being called upon to deal with unconventional threats and give support in non-traditional areas. Some have lost their lives in the course of duty,” he said.
He noted that a fair assessment will conclude that they have performed their roles creditably, they have been committed and acted with restraint and “I wish to express our appreciation for their service”.