Jamaica declares state of emergency in St Catherine North

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is flanked by National Security Minister Robert Montague (second right), Justice Minister Delroy Chuck (right) along with Chief of Defence Staff of the Jamaica Defence Force, Major General Rocky Meade (left) and Acting Police Commissioner Clifford Blake as he announced the second state of public emergency in the St Catherine North Police Division yesterday morning at Jamaica House.

(Jamaica Gleaner) Determined to stem the murder tally in St Catherine North now at 48 since the start of this year, Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday morning announced a state of public emergency in the police division, saying some rights will be suspended.

The state of public emergency will be in effect for an initial 14 days and covers Spanish Town and its environs, Bog Walk, Linstead, Jones Avenue, Shelter Rock, Lakes Pen, Sligoville and several other communities where criminals have been active in recent weeks.

“Under these enhanced security measures the security forces will have extraordinary powers and some rights will be suspended,” Holness said a media briefing at Jamaica House.

“The security forces will have the power to search, curtail operating hours of businesses, access to places and to detain persons without a warrant.  All persons using all roads leading into, and out of St Catherine North will be subject to vehicle and personal search.

“This does not mean that the use of these extraordinary powers can be arbitrary or are beyond review.  The security forces are expected, and have been directed, to treat citizens with respect and protect the dignity and safety of all,” added Holness.

The prime minister was supported by head of the Jamaica Defence Force Major General Rocky Meade, who said the members of the security forces will continue to respect the rights of citizens as is now being done in the other areas such as St James, where they are operating with extraordinary powers.

In the meantime, acting police commissioner Clifford Blake said there have been 48 murders since the start of this year, up from 30 over the corresponding period last year.

He also said police intelligence indicate the possibility of further criminal activity in the area due to an internal clash in the Clansman gang.

“The St Catherine North division has the largest gang in the island, the Clansman gang.  This gang has been responsible for scores of murders, robberies and extortion not only in St Catherine,” said Blake.

He said the security forces will use tools available to restore public order and the rule of law under the powers granted by the state of public emergency.

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