29 Jun PNP SAYS ZONES OF SPECIAL OPERATIONS BILL IS DEFICIENT
Clarendon, Jamaica, June 25, 2017: Opposition Leader, Dr. Peter Phillips in his address to the National Executive Council (NEC), yesterday, at the Bridge Palm Hotel in Clarendon, described the Zones of Special Operations Bill as oppressive and that it will only widen the gap between the police and the citizenry as well as perpetuate further distrust between them.
“The People’s National Party is not opposed to making legislative changes to aid the fight against crime; however, the present Bill is deficient for a number of reasons,” Dr. Phillips said.
The Zones of Special Operations Bill as proposed by the JLP led administration is inadequate to combat the crime situation currently faced by Jamaica.
Dr. Phillips said, the Bill does not provide for transparency, especially as it relates to how and who would declare a community to be a special operations zone. “Both parties had agreed that security operations should be left to the security professionals. It should not be left to the Prime Minister or the political directorate. We should stay away from the politicization of security operations, whether implicitly or substantive,” he said.
Dr. Phillips said further that there are existing laws that can be used to suppress crime, but the police would also need additional funds to carry-out crime fighting operations. We already know based on the present budget allocation, where the government has placed its priorities; and they are not in crime fighting.
According to the PNP, there is no further need for the government to remove the basic rights of the citizenry as there are already provisions in law for the management of emergencies such as this current upsurge in crime.
More than 700 persons have been murdered, with the country having witnessed several multiple murders in usually quiet communities, indicating that the crime wave is spreading beyond the usual demarcations.
The Party is pointing to existing laws governing the use of cordon and search operations, and curfews that are available to law enforcement, which are renewable under strict guidelines, but are not being used sufficiently enough in the present situation.
To win support for the Bill, the government has dangled before the public the possibility that once an area is declared a zone of special operations, it would immediately be eligible for social services and community development aid.
However, Dr. Phillips said “You don’t need a special zone to get social services to an area. It was done in 2004 with Hannah Town, Denham Town and Payne land receiving increased social services intervention without any special designation. The police went in, set up operations in the respective communities and did what was needed.”
The Bill, in the form bought to Parliament by the Prime Minister, will permit the creation of a situation with marked similarities to a State of Public Emergency, but without the safeguards that are required by our Constitution to protect our basic rights from being undermined by legislation which arrogates excessive and unchecked powers to the Executive.