Golding sceptical of SOE in St James

ROEHAMPTON, St James – Leader of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) Mark Golding on Wednesday continued his objection to the Government’s use of states of public emergency (SOE) as a crime-fighting tool.

He was responding to the implementation of an SOE in the parish of St James, which comes on the heels of several murders, including the slaying of two young boys in a taxi on Monday.

“We are very sceptical about this because we have seen the Government using it like a policing tool since 2017. We don’t think it is in lawful exercise of that constitutional mechanism which is to protect the State from subversion. So, we are testing that in court as you know,” he told the Jamaica Observer while on a tour of St James Southern.

SOEs as used by the Andrew Holness-led Administration, he said, have never worked.

“Crime has continued at high levels and it might subdue a situation for a temporary period of time. But then people go elsewhere and commit their nefarious deeds and it doesn’t result in any accountability because persons are not charged with any serious offences. Very few weapons have been recovered under the state’s emergency. We think it’s actually a failing strategy as well,” stated Golding.

He noted, however, that, despite the Opposition’s continued objection, the Government has invested in enhanced security measures and will continue to do so.

The SOE will be in effect for an initial period of 14 days after which it can be extended. However, despite the Government having the two-thirds majority it needs in Parliament, it will need the support of the parliamentary Opposition in the Senate to achieve an extension.

On Wednesday, Holness expressed sadness over the Government’s failure to get the Opposition on board in the past.

In response, Golding said his party has an obligation to protect the constitution.

“We’ve stated it for a number of years. We believe in our obligations to protect and defend the rights of the people and that the Constitution must be respected. And, we do not feel that the way in which this Government has used the states of emergency is in accordance with the constitution. And that’s based on legal advice we have taken,” argued Golding.

He said the Government’s actions have been costing taxpayers.

“Based on our understanding of the constitution and the advice we receive, what the Government has been doing is unlawful, and it is costing them a lot of money. Look how many millions of dollars of damages they had to pay persons who were wrongfully detained in past states of emergency prior to 2017,” stated Golding.

“And we all know what happened there since 2017. We have had 20 to 30 states of emergency. It’s unheard of. I think it’s an aberration,” he added.