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JM | Nov 23, 2022

House approves extension of SOEs to January despite Opposition dissent

/ Our Today

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Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers stand at a checkpoint in Central Kingston on Sunday, November 14, after the Government of Jamaica’s announcement of public states of emergency (SOEs) in seven police divisions. (Photo: Twitter @JamaicaConstab)

Durrant Pate/Contributor

As expected, Jamaica’s Lower House of Parliament approved an extension to the current states of emergency (SOEs) imposed more than a week ago.

The government used its more than two thirds majority to push through two resolutions to extend the SOEs to January 14, 2023 without the support of the Opposition People’s National Party.

The two resolutions, titled The Emergency Powers (Parishes of Clarendon and St Catherine and Specified Areas in the parish of Kingston and St Andrew) (Continuance) Resolution, 2022 and The Emergency Powers (Parishes of St James, Westmoreland and Hanover) (Continuance) Resolution, 2022 extends the SOEs imposed in Westmoreland, St James, Hanover, Clarendon, St Catherine and sections of Kingston and St Andrew.

The Opposition abstained from voting when the vote on the matter was called.

Arguing that he took an oath in Parliament to defend the Constitution of Jamaica, Opposition Leader Mark Golding contended that he could not support an extension of the SOEs.

Golding charged that the continued use of SOEs from 2017 was a subversion of Jamaica’s constitutional order, which he did not support.

Golding’s vs Holness’s arguments on SOEs

He pointed to two separate court rulings, which have seriously questioned the constitutional legitimacy of the use of SOEs since 2017. However, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who piloted the resolutions, hailed the success of the seven SOEs since he declared them on November 15.

Joint police-military presence in Central Kingston on November 14, 2021, after the Government of Jamaica’s announcement of public states of emergency (SOEs) in seven police divisions last year.. (File Photo: Twitter @JamaicaConstab)

Holness stated that, for the week of November 13-19, Jamaica recorded 12 murders, which he argued is the lowest number of murders recorded in a week for this year.

“In fact, the lowest number recorded in any week since 2015… . I’ve won Jamaica would have won,” he bellowed in Parliament.

Showdown expected in Senate

The resolutions move to the Senate, the Upper House of Jamaica’s Parliament, on Friday where, based on its composition, the Government does not have the two-third majority needed to approve the extension and would need at least one vote from the Opposition in order to extend the measure.

Based on the Opposition stance thus far, this is unlikely to happen if the Senate votes along party lines.

Holness is hoping the Opposition will this time vote in favour of the measure in the Senate.

SOEs generally include checkpoints, increased police and/or military presence in the designated areas, and overall increased law enforcement activities. 

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