Jamaica: Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced the State of Emergency (SOE) in the parish of St Catherine as the region has witnessed huge violence in Spanish Town.
In the violence, around three people were shot, and several others were wounded on Tuesday. Moreover, a gang that could be the reason behind the shooting also claimed the lives of four people in Spanish Town.
While making the SOE declaration on Friday morning, Prime Minister Holness said the terrorism being experienced in some communities in Spanish Town is a result of the organized criminal activity of gangs.
“The government has to act. The government cannot sit by and see innocent Jamaicans going about their business and having to be scurrying for their lives. The government has to act. That is the government’s responsibility,” he stated.
A state of public emergency allows the security forces, or authorized persons, enhanced powers of search and arrest and limits the right of detained persons to due process.
The measure can only remain in force for 14 days. If the measure is to be extended, it must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Upper House.
Prime Minister Holness said the government would be acting within the boundaries of the constitution as it relates to SOE.
He said, “The Government will not sit by and allow innocent Jamaicans to live in fear for their lives. The Government must act and will continue to act within the boundaries of our laws and our constitution.”
Commissioner of Police, Major General Antony Anderson, who also spoke at the press conference on Friday,and said“The high level of violent crime being experienced in St. Catherine particularly within the last two months have risen to a scale and nature that greatly endangers public safety.
The police commissioner also detailed that there has been a sharp increase in the number of murders and shootings recorded in some areas of the parish.
“Since the beginning of 2022, in St Catherine, we have arrested 82 persons for illegal possession of firearm, ammunition or both, and seized 59 illegal guns – an increase of 28 percent. We have also continued to prosecute gang members and are leading several active community engagement efforts. Despite these efforts, as at June 15, the St Catherine North Division recorded 70 murders and 51 shootings, representing a 52 percent and 76 percent increase respectively compared to last year,” the Commissioner explained.
Violent conflicts in Spanish Town have also spilled over to areas of Portmore and Old Harbour.