Prime Minister Andrew Holness has just confirmed that a State of Emergency is now in effect for the western Jamaica parish of St. James.
The Prime Minister, speaking at a press briefing at Jamaica House, declared that the prevailing conditions in St. James met the conditions for imposition of a State of Public Emergency under the appropriate constitutional provisions, and so the decision had been made to proceed with this measure.
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck acknowledged, as did the Prime Minister, that some ordinary rights of citizens might be suspended during the period of emergency, but sought to assure that public that suspension of rights did not mean abuse of the human rights of the citizen.
National Security Minister Robert Montague also appealed to residents of the parish to cooperate with the security forces in their operations.
"We will be going after wanted men, seizing weapons and taking back our communities," Police Commissioner George Quallo declared in support of the decision to impose the State of Emergency.
He noted that last year there were 335 murders in St. James, almost twice the number committed in Clarendon, the parish with the second highest number of killings.
A State of Emergency related to crime and violence was last imposed in a section of Jamaica eight years ago during the operation to capture the fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. That State of Emergency covered Kingston & St. Andrew and St. Catherine.
The Prime Minister, in response to a question, said the government had waited this long to declare the State of Public Emergency because it needed to have appropriate resources to make the initiative a success. Furthermore, he said, the administration needed to be assured of public support for the measure before it went ahead with it.
The proclamation for the state of emergency, unless revoked, will remain in force for fourteen days or for a period not exceeding three months as determined by a two-thirds majority of the Houses of Parliament.