Full speed ahead on crime bills - PM
Byron Buckley, Special Projects Editor
While expressing regret at the extensive loss of life during the assault by the security forces on west Kingston gang strongholds in the quest to arrest alleged Mafia boss Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, Prime Minister Bruce Golding yesterday declared that he would be charging ahead with legislation aimed at curbing crime.
Golding, in a statement to the House of Representatives, said the state of emergency, which has been imposed since Sunday evening, will be used by the security forces to go after armed thugs across the country.
"During this period of public emergency, a concerted effort will be made to go after the criminal gunmen in whatever community they may be ensconced," Golding told the House.
He added that while the state of emergency has been called to deal with the arrest of Coke, "it is not confined to that, because there is a general pattern of criminality, lawlessness and the kind of criminality that is not unwilling to confront and challenge the institutions of authority in the State and those have to be responded to ... ."
Golding disclosed that pending anti-crime legislation
will be tabled in Parliament within a week, with the expectation for enactment before the summer recess. He added that drafting instructions had been given regarding the anti-gang bill.
Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller also expressed condolences to the families of persons who have been killed in the west Kingston onslaught, while backing the Government's efforts to "rid the society of a cancer that has befallen us over time".
She said there has to be a long-term objective if the present sacrifices were not to be lost.
"The state of emergency must be a vehicle not simply used for the service of a warrant on one man, important though that clearly is, but it must be (used) to ferret out the illegal guns which the society knows are prevalent in so many areas of Jamaica," Simpson Miller stated.
Golding said while he accepted the opposition leader's suggestion to set up an oversight body to monitor the application of the state of emergency, he believed the public defender, vested with statutory powers, was the appropriate authority to exercise oversight.
In addition, Golding disclosed that an Emergency Powers Review Tribunal would be established to review cases of detention and restoration. The chief justice will appoint the chairman; the governor general will name two others.
The prime minister also disclosed that there were no foreign law-enforcement agents involved in the operation in west Kingston, although intelligence and other assistance had been received from friendly governments.
Yesterday's sitting of the House was witnessed by several private-sector leaders - including Joseph M. Matalon, head of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica; Douglas Orane, CEO of GraceKennedy Group; Dr Rosalea Hamilton, representative of the micro and small-business sector; and Oliver Clarke, chairman of The Gleaner Company.