MPs vote to extend SOEs

October 16, 2019
Jamaica Defence Force personnel at a checkpoint in Whitehouse, Westmoreland.
Jamaica Defence Force personnel at a checkpoint in Whitehouse, Westmoreland.

Parliamentarians yesterday voted to extend the states of public emergency in the western parishes of St James, Westmoreland, and Hanover, and in St Catherine and Clarendon for a further 90 days, following the expiration of the current periods.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in bringing the resolution, noted that for the comparative 162-day period prior to and during the SOE (November 19, 2018 to April 29, 2019) and April 30 to October 8), respectively, the western tri-parish area experienced an overall reduction in murders by 35 per cent (142 to 93) and shootings by 43 per cent (140 to 80).

Hanover saw the biggest reductions of 52 per cent (from 23 to 11) and 86 per cent (from 22 to 3) over the two periods.

Sixty firearms and 4,133 rounds of ammunition have also been recovered.

However, Holness said that despite the gains, the tri-parish region continues to raise significant security concerns nationally.

The three parishes still account for 20 per cent of the murders and 19 per cent of the shootings committed throughout Jamaica over the period January 1, 2019 to October 9.

The SOE for St Catherine and Clarendon had received a 30-day extension last month contingent on some specific conditions.

Holness reported that between September 5 and October 8, the rates of murders and shootings collectively in the two parishes have been reduced by 62 per cent (from 42 to 16) and 70 per cent (from 27 to 8) when compared to the equivalent 34-day period prior to the SOE (August 2 to September 4) prior to the declaration.

But Holness said that the parishes were still a concern as Clarendon had recorded 103 murders between January 1 and October 9, the third highest number of murders among all Police divisions.

He also noted that the St Catherine South Police Division recorded 101 murders, fourth highest number for the same period.

Cumulatively, the combined geographical space of the two parishes account for 27 per cent of murders since the start of 2019.

Referring to the St Andrew South SOE, Holness also said that an extension for businesses hours was also expected.

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