PRIME Minister Andrew Holness has sent a strong message to hoodlums responsible for firebombing 11 houses in a multi-dwelling yard on Walker’s Avenue in Gregory Park, St Catherine, on Saturday morning, warning that they will not be given free reign to do as they want in the country.
During the firebombing, which occurred between 3:30 am and 4:00 am Saturday, one man was shot dead and an elderly woman injured as the criminals, who were said to be armed with rifles and handguns went on a rampage, burning down houses and firing gunshots at the people, preventing them from escaping the blaze.
Holness, who toured the affected area on Monday morning, along with Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson and Alando Terrelonge, Member of Parliament of East Central St Catherine in which Gregory Park is located, pledged to rebuild the 11 houses destroyed during the blaze.
The purpose of the tour was to assess the damage and give assurances of Government’s response to the tragedy.
“We are going to treat this one special. The people who committed the crime were seen and I am going to be personally on it to ensure that every last one of them is found and dealt with within the remit of the law. We cannot allow this to become a feature in Jamaica. You have no right to try and destroy people’s homes and displace them,” Holness said.
“I give the commitment that the 11 houses that were destroyed will be repaired. If the objective of the terrorists is to displace the people here, so that they could possibly import who they want in the area, they will not have that comfort and they will not have that victory. We will rebuild the structures so that the people who are here will have good life and living conditions. We will never allow them [criminals] to win,” Holness said, adding that the area was already being considered to benefit under the new social housing programme.
Holness added that the yard targeted was previously assessed and deemed to be one in need of an upgrade.
“That process will be fast-tracked. If criminals thought they had won, they would be sadly mistaken,” he said.
The prime minister was mindful that the incident definitely will have an impact on the children who had to cower in fear during the incident. Holness said that the various government agencies will work alongside MP Terrelonge and the police to implement a peace-building programme.
“Obviously, this kind of incident is going to percolate in the minds of the residents here, and you could very well have an entrenchment of the internecine gang war that exists, meaning that people who suffered, may want to take things into their own hands, which we can’t have. Sometimes, when we engage them in the restorative justice process and they begin to speak, they realise that what they were fighting over is meaningless and of no value,” said the prime minister.
Holness added that, “Having the opportunity to speak to the residents and they relayed to us how they feared for their lives and how they had to rescue others, it is clear that there has to be some social intervention that supports your mental health. That will be mobilised particularly because a large number of children have to go back to school. This is inexplicable for a young child to experience this trauma. You can never tell how they will grow up and internalise it. We don’t want them to internalise this and have a vengeful heart. We have to have social intervention very quickly to ensure that our young people are stable.”
Meanwhile, Anderson said that quite a number of people have been identified as being of interest who can help the police and said the residents can rest assured that the cops will remain in the space as long as the threat exists.
The commissioner said that the police followed leads on Monday morning which led to a shooting encounter with men believed to have been involved in the firebombing and murder on Saturday.
“We are after the people who did this. We understand that women came over and to help the men burn out other women and children. That is indicative of the sort of threat we have been facing as a police force and we will continue to do so. We are up to the task. We are going to find these people. We already engaged some of them this morning, but they managed to escape, but we will be on them. We have identified a number of them and we will be following up on that. Some wanted persons will be put out on Wednesday. This was an act of terror.”
The St Catherine South police further said on Monday that it is seeking individuals for questioning in Saturday’s tragedy and a series of violent incidents in Gregory Park.
The following people are being asked to report to any police station within the division and were implored to do so immediately: Ian Watson, otherwise called Scaley; Shane Williams, otherwise called Gaza Tussain; a man known only as Teacha, a man known only as Venom; and another man known only as Birch. Also on the police’s list is Odane “Packchow” Fowler; Ryan “Titiman” Muir; Miguel “Ears” Tracey; plus men known only as “Nigel McLarty”; “Sugar”; “Maverick”; “Poo”; and “Pick Pocket”.