(CMR) Prime Minister Andrew Holness today announced a State of Public Emergency (SOE) in the Kingston Central and Kingston Western Police Divisions after a week of violence in Jamaica that saw four police officers ambushed on Friday morning.
Earlier last week Ray Ray Market in Lizard Town, a section of this same area in Kingston was set ablaze by gangs after a gun battle with the police and soldiers in that area. In May, an eight-year-old girl was shot dead in Denham Town, also in the Kingston Western police division.
There was also a 100 percent increase in murders in Kingston Western district since the beginning of 2020. PM Holness said he feared the violence could spiral to “chaotic ends”. Shootings have also been up over 51 percent.
A number of other police divisions across the island have been under States of Public Emergency for several months.
Various checkpoints have been set up as part of the SOE including on North Street in downtown Kingston and from Bull Bay in the east to Ferry in the west.
The SOE, declared under the 1966 Emergency Powers Act, gives expanded authorities to Jamaican security forces to arbitrarily detain and deport suspicious persons, enter premises, and seize property without a warrant. Residents can expect to encounter increased police and military presence, checkpoints, and searches of persons and vehicles within the respective areas.
What is a State of Emergency?
Section 26 of the Constitution explains a “period of public emergency” as any period during which:
a. Jamaica is engaged in any war
b. There is in force a proclamation by the governor-general declaring that a state of public emergency exists
c. There is in force a resolution of each House supported by the votes of a majority of all the members of that House declaring that democratic institutions in Jamaica are threatened by subversion.
When can it be declared?
1. When a state of war between Jamaica and a foreign state is imminent
2. As a result of the occurrence of any earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire, outbreak of pestilence, outbreak of infectious disease, or other calamity
3. When action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any person an such an extensive scale it could likely endanger the public safety or deprive the community, or any substantial portion of the community of supplies or services essential to life.
What does it mean?
1. Extraordinary powers have been given to the security forces
2. Some rights have been suspended.
3. Members of the security forces may search places without a warrant.