Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced that a state of emergency has been imposed in St James days after the murder of two schoolboys on their way home in the parish.
He made the disclosure this morning at a post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.
The SOE measure follows an crease in gang violence and Monday’s shooting death of three persons, including two schoolboys, in the western parish.
“We will not wilt, we will not resile in the face of terror,” the prime minister said.
Holness says the SOE declaration, which took effect at midnight, followed a recommendation by the security forces.
States of emergency allow the security forces, or authorised persons, enhanced powers of search and arrest and limit the right of detained persons to due process. It will run for 14 days after which there must be Parliamentary approval for any extension.
The Opposition People’s National Party has resisted the use of SOEs in routine policing, saying the Constitution never contemplated such a use.
Yesterday, Deputy Mayor of Montego Bay Richard Vernon called for the re-imposition of a state of public emergency in the country’s tourism capital, which is besieged by gang violence.
Justin Perry, seven, and his nine-year-old schoolmate Nacholive Smith, of Chetwood Memorial Primary, and a man who remains unidentified, were shot and killed by gunmen while travelling in a taxi at around 6 p.m. Monday near Meggie Top in the Flower Hill area.
Lawmakers have condemned Monday’s killings, urging greater bi-partisan approach to addressing the country’s crime and violence problem.
Speaking this morning, Holness said the shooting of the schoolboys was not an “ordinary crime … this is the worse of the worse”.
Holness said he was not trying to “stir up the nation into vengeance” but he said the country should “stop sending mixed signals to criminals… they are not reasonable people, they are terrorists and they must be treated as such.
“They don’t respect your human rights … if we have not yet realised that in the pursuit of their limited and narrow objectives, they are also pursuing the destruction of our state. This is not what is acceptable in a free and democratic society. Where will it end?,” he said.