Prime Minister Andrew Holness says the Government will establish the National Security Council (NSC) in law.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday (June 28) during the debate on the Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations)(Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act 2017, Mr Holness said the architecture is being put in place to ensure that Jamaica has a modern response to its national security.
“We will be bringing to Parliament a law to establish it (the NSC). There is a consideration to have a member of the Opposition to be in attendance. I am hoping that will become a permanent part of the national security architecture,” said Mr Holness.
The NSC is chaired by Prime Minister Holness who is also Minister of Defence. It includes the heads of the security forces along with the Ministers of National Security, Justice, Finance and Foreign Affairs and the National Security Advisor. It has been in operation since 1977.
Prime Minister Holness assured that the NSC does not remove the separation of operation and policy from existing bodies in government. He says the NSC will hold the police accountable for how they use their powers of operation.
“The police, the military and MOCA will have their operational duties. The job of the Government is to create the legal framework in which they [the security forces] can operate and hold them accountable. So we are evolving into a better model of ensuring that the people of Jamaica are better served in terms of their safety and security,” said Prime Minister Holness.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister hailed the ‘Special Zones’ Bill as a wise decision to tackle crime.
He says the Bill makes it clear that crime must exist in the area being declared a special zone and therefore there is no issue of political selection of areas.
“The Bills says you must select areas where it is evident that there is a crime problem. So we can’t go into any area and declare it a zone, and in operations terms, we would not have the resources to willy-nilly declare areas zones. We would have to be selective and go into areas where resources bring an impact. It is evidential. It is not left up to the Prime Minister’s whims and fancies. In the law there are parameters. More than that, it is the Prime Minister acting on the advice of not only Cabinet but also the National Security Council,” added Mr Holness.
The Bill has safeguards to ensure the protection of citizens and to ensure the joint police – military command is held accountable.
Prime Minister Holness said the joint command is required to report to the NSC every ten (10) days during the designation of the special operation. Support from social intervention agencies will also be part of the operation.
Parliament yesterday unanimously approved the Bill.
The Bill will be tabled in the Senate on Friday and debated next week.