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PM's consideration of more SOEs worrying, says Smith

By Kimone Witter

Political commentator Lloyd B. Smith says it is worrying that Prime Minister Andrew Holness is considering imposing another State of Public Emergency after failing to get an extension of the measure imposed in seven parishes.

Addressing a press conference after a Jamaica Labour Party Central Executive meeting on Sunday, Mr. Holness said the imposition of another set of SOEs was not off the table, but would be carefully considered.

But Mr. Smith argues that Jamaicans are being used as pawns in a game of politicking that needs to end, adding that the use of states of emergency is an admission that the Holness administration has failed to devise an effective crime fighting plan.

He has joined those calling for collaboration between the government and opposition, noting that both parties could at least decide on timelines for certain measures, including how long states of emergency should last. 

"I am frightened by the aspect of the Prime Minister saying that he is looking at rolling over the state of emergency over and over again. That’s moving towards a police state. The military should not be used in that sort of framework," he warned. 

While he admitted that the wider society is "scared" about murders and their safety, he said the public needs to "look at the bigger picture", starting with why successive governments have failed to control crime. 

Mr. Smith has also strongly criticised the private sector for urging the opposition to support an extension of the states of emergency.

Instead of being more concerned about profits, he said, the private sector should look at the situation in its entirety and use its position to force the government and opposition to work together.

"It ought to have taken the moral high ground and rather than just willy nilly supporting the government of the day, it should have taken the stance that ‘Look, you guys need to go to the table now’ – even if it means to say to both parties, ‘We are not going to finance you at all,’" Mr. Smith proposed. 

He was speaking Monday on the Morning Agenda on Power 106.

Principled position  

Attorney Kenyatta Powell has disagreed that politics is at the heart of the decision by the opposition not to support an extension of the States of Public Emergency.

He recalled that the opposition for a time "allowed the government space to implement their preferred strategy" in the form of SOEs, but had constantly made their disapproval of the measure known.   

"They complained. They said 'Look, we think that what you’re doing is constitutionally dubious, but we don’t want to stand in your way.'"

For this reason, Mr. Powell believes the opposition has taken a principled position not to support an extension of the SOEs due to a "fundamental philosophical disagreement".