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PSOJ declares support for further SOEs

By Prince Moore

The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) says it would support another declaration of states of emergency (SOEs) should the murder rate increase further.

The latest states of emergency, declared in seven parishes, came to an end on Tuesday after they failed to receive opposition support for an extension.

The government has since indicated that it will not hesitate to reimpose the measure to control rising crime.

PSOJ President Keith Duncan says the measure can be used in the interim until a long-term solution is found. 

Citing the fact that Jamaica has "been in the top five murder rate [in the world] for 20 years", Mr. Duncan argued that the country's "crime epidemic" is not normal. 

He suggested that states of emergency are constitutional tools that could be used to bring down the murder rate and "bring some kind of stability to the country or a specific community or area". 

Mr. Duncan, who was speaking in an interview with Radio Jamaica News, believes the use of SOEs is constitutional given the changes the government made to the emergency powers regulations.

"To reflect that court ruling around the unconstitutionality of the detention, they made the adjustments in the emergency powers regulations now, where the Tribunal has to review the case within seven days and if there is strong intelligence that there is reason to continue to hold that detainee then that person will continue to be held in detention. But for a maximum of 42 days, if you cannot put a case in front of the courts after 42 days, the person has to be released," he explained. 

The parliamentary opposition has been questioning the constitutionality of the regulations governing the states of emergency as a crime fighting tool.

PSOJ executives on Thursday met with Opposition Leader Mark Golding and Senator Peter Bunting to discuss national security issues.

The group said the meeting facilitated dialogue on the divergent views of the People's National Party and the PSOJ on the use of States of Public Emergency as a long-term crime fighting tool.

While both the PSOJ and the PNP have not shifted from their opposing positions on the SOEs, PSOJ President Keith Duncan said there was agreement in other areas. 

These include that the security forces should remain a presence in violence-prone areas after the SOEs expire and that the development of the enhanced security measures which seek to target violence producers is concluded in short order.

Additionally, the opposition has agreed that it will work collaboratively with the government "in a spirit of mutual respect". 

Mr. Duncan said Thursday's meeting was also part of efforts to strengthen the relationship between the PSOJ and the parliamentary opposition.