Speech by the Prime Minister

Closing Remarks By The Most Honourable Andrew Holness ON, MP Prime Minister On the Declaration of a State of Public Emergency In St Catherine and Clarendon

I suspect I’ll be making closing remarks but just to say don’t rush off because since I have you gathered, I have some other things I would like to share with you but just on this matter. The triple threat of guns, gangs and dons continue to exist, that is it. I want to reinforce what the Commissioner has said. The government is not using of state of public emergency as a substitute for regular policing. What the state of emergency does is to provide a respite in the number of crimes in particular murders that are taking place. It helps to expand the number of law enforcement persons that we have on the ground. It helps to restrict the free movement of the criminal enterprise and then that gives regular police and increased ability to do their work so I want you to pay close attention to what the Commissioner has said.

Within the spaces that we have the state of public emergency and even outside of those spaces we have been able to interdict, bring before the courts, prosecute and have successful convictions and the commissioner gave you the number of successful convictions that we’ve had in St James.

In addition, it has given greater capacity to regular law enforcement to do regular law enforcement, so they are doing more community policing. I want you to take a look if you get a chance at what is happening in Salt Spring; they are doing their search and recovery of firearms, they are doing public order operations on the streets of Montego Bay so it is not a substitute, it helps and we’re not relying on it as the only tool but as the commissioner said we’re working all the strategies, we’re using all the tools in out toolbox to ensure that we can protect the lives of the Jamaican citizen.

I want to reinforce what the minister of national security has said and in my last presentation here when we declared the SOE in St Andrew South we pointed out that a significant portion/ percentage of murders in Jamaica are gang-related.

The gangs posture as if they are protectors of the communities. They posture as if they are giving opportunities to young people. They even posture as if they are legitimate business people, but I don’t want the public to be pulled into that illusion. They are a criminal business- I mean I think the word enterprise is too good for them, they are criminals, that’s what they are, and they prey upon the communities, they prey upon your children, they literally recruit them. You may not see it as recruitment but the don in your community and I’m certain you know who they are, they see your son going to school doesn’t have proper shoes, doesn’t have lunch money and all of a sudden they are providing them with lunch money and clothes and bringing them to places and before you know it your son is side-tracked

Some of the criminal enterprises are so sophisticated that they look for the brightest, pay their school fee and encourage them to join law enforcement, to become lawyers that is the level of thinking that some of the criminals are doing now. They want to know the bright ones because they want them to help them with cybercrimes. The government isn’t sitting down idly and not paying attention to these things; that is what we mean when we say we have to develop our intelligence capability so that we know. We may not get specifics as to who is doing it but we can analyse general trends and then that helps us to structure our policies and of course as we strengthen our intelligence both our human intelligence, signal intelligence and other forms of intelligence gathering we get to have more specific information and we do have specific information on some of these operations.

Sometimes the statistics that you see can be disheartening and the public is always swayed particularly in this silly season which we hope will come to an end soon and that of course has an impact on what is said in the press and when you wake up in the morning how you feel about yourself and your country and it does affect mood but I want you to appreciate that the government can’t always be swayed by mood, we have to be empirical in how we operate and you will see from how we have operated that we have been very strategic and very deliberate in the things that we are doing and it has had an effect, it has had an impact. The impact that you are seeking which is we want to get our murder rate down to zero or to some number which is acceptable which is above zero which I don’t know what that number is but that impact that you’re seeking is possible but you have to keep faith and you have to search for the good news sometimes because what is presented, the good news is not always at the top of the pile, you have to dig underneath it. My job is to present to you a balanced view, present to you what are the threats, where we have failed and of course where we’ve had successes. One area, in particular, you will hear portrayed as bad news, “we’re finding less guns in the SOEs ” but if you were to stop and really analyse that statement in the first  few months of the SOE when the strategical posture and operational design was in searches and the interdiction of- sorry , that person wasn’t talking to me but, in the first few months of the SOE clearly the operational posture would be to conduct more searches and  yes, you would find more guns because the guns are there but after you’ve had the SOE for a period of time and you have found the guns you’re not going to find the same guns again, you’ve taken them off the street. That space is now an unsafe space for people to hide weapons so they will seek to move them. That space is not a safe space for hidden weapons because people will share information as to where those guns are. Yes, we can increase our effort and yes, we have, and you will see that we have found marginally more this time this year than we found this time last year, but it is not a statement to say that the SOE has failed because we have found less firearms.

In fact, it is more a statement of the success of the SOE because if you keep on finding more and more guns then you would have to be wondering first of all where are they coming from and whether or not your operations have been effective in preventing guns from coming in.

Generally, the objective of the government is to bring our murder rate down to at least the regional average of homicide per hundred thousand and regionally by the last statistics that we have from the United Nations that would be around sixteen per hundred thousand. We can do it. We have a five-year strategic plan to do it. We’re one year already into that five year plan and we’ve moved our homicide rate per hundred thousand from sixty-one per hundred thousand to- last year we were at forty-seven per hundred thousand, we’re just about there now but the objective is to further bring that down and this is an objective that all Jamaicans should rally around, all Jamaicans should support that because the life that you save could very well be your own. So, in closing off on the SOE I would and since I have the media here, I want to bring you UpToDate on the situation in the Bahamas.