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No word yet on whether cops want SOE extended

No word yet on whether cops want SOE extended

Posted  38 Views updated 2 months ago

Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang has indicated that he was unable to say at this time if the state of emergency (SOE) declared last Friday for St Catherine would be extended beyond the initial 14-day period.

Chang said he would have dialogue with the parliamentary Opposition if the security forces ask for an extension of the measure.

He made a statement on Thursday in Gordon House in response to queries by Leader of Opposition Business Phillip Paulwell, who questioned the source of the “cock-up” in the tabling of the wrong regulations in Parliament on Tuesday.

The Government needs a two-thirds majority in both Houses to extend the SOE. It comfortably has the numbers in the House of Representatives, with 49 of the 63 seats, but requires at least one opposition vote in the 21-member Senate. The Government has 13 representatives, including the Senate president, in the upper chamber.

But St Catherine Southern Member of Parliament (MP) Fitz Jackson said that the Government has not engaged the Opposition in dialogue.

However, Chang explained that if the heads of the security forces recommended that the measure be extended, he would contact Opposition Leader Mark Golding before the new regulations are debated on Tuesday.

He said that the commissioner of police will give the Opposition a full intelligence briefing on the events in St Catherine to underscore the need for the declaration of an SOE there.

Chang said that persons comprising the SOE appeal tribunal have been selected but have not yet received their instruments from the governor general.

The national security minister also told parliamentarians on Thursday that several gangsters had been detained since the declaration of the SOE in St Catherine. However, he made it clear that they were held and charged under the Jamaica Constabulary Force Act, not under powers in the regulations to accompany the SOE.

“Most of them have been charged because there are charges that could be laid, and I think a couple are awaiting identification parade. Nobody is being currently detained under any clause in the regulations,” Chang said.

MPs were hastily called to attend Thursday’s sitting following a blunder involving the tabling of the wrong SOE regulations that contain provisions that were struck down as unconstitutional by the full court on June 17 in the case brought against the State by taxi operator Roshaine Clarke.

Clarke was detained unlawfully under the 2018 SOE declared in St James. He was awarded nearly $18 million in damages by the court.

Chang tabled the new regulations Thursday, revoking the previous one that triggered alarm and embarrassment for the administration.

An investigation is under way, and Chang warned that someone will be held accountable for the foul-up.

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