Bunting still opposed to PM’s Crime Bill

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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Opposition spokesman on national security, Peter Bunting, says that despite supporting a Joint Select Committee (JSC) to review the Special Security and Community Development Measures Bill, the Opposition still has strong reservations about its provisions.

"The Opposition has serious reservations about many aspects of this Bill, and our participation in the Joint Select Committee should not be interpreted as support of the measures contained therein," Bunting told the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Bunting picked on a sentence from the Memorandum of Objects and Reasons of the Bill which, he said, "telegraphs the true purpose of the legislation".

The sentence states: "This Act should not have the negative impact on Jamaica, which could likely occur if a declaration of a state of public emergency was made."

"In other words, this Act attempts to give state of emergency-type powers to the security forces without having to declare a state of emergency and make it not subject to Parliamentary review. This raises a number of concerns and risks," the Opposition spokesman stated in his presentation.

The Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act was among several Bills announced in the House of Representatives last month by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Introducing the Bills in his contribution to the budget debate, Holness announced the establishment of the Zones of Special Operations as part of the Government’s plan to secure Jamaica.

He said that tackling crime would require a national effort, involving management and coordination.

He said that the Bill would give members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force essential powers, which the Government believes are necessary in addressing serious crimes, while upholding the rule of law and protecting the fundamental rights of citizens.

He also called for bipartisan support for the Bill, which seeks to establish a legal framework in which, as prime minister, acting on the advice of the National Security Council, he could have declared any high-crime area of Jamaica as a zone for special security operations and community development measures.

However, Holness pointed out that the Bill would be reviewed by a bipartisan committee of Parliament before it is passed.

Last week, Leader of the House of Representatives Derrick Smith informed the House that the Bill — The Law Reform (Zones of Special Operation) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act 2017 — would be referred to a JSC of Parliament, for review and report back to the House.

Five people have already been named to the select committee. They are: Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck, who will chair the committee; Minister of National Security Robert Montague; Minister of State for Education, Youth and Information Floyd Green; and Opposition members, Peter Bunting, spokesman on national security, and Fitz Jackson, member of Parliament for Southern St Catherine.

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