Prime Minister Andrew Holness has written to Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips proposing a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the crime situation in Jamaica.
In the December 31 letter, Holness said his administration views the “current crime situation as an existential threat to the security of the country and a national emergency of exceptional public importance”.
He said while the security measures put in place so far have resulted in a 22 per cent decline in murders and a 22.3 per cent reduction in shooting incidents “the national murder rate remains high at approximately 46 per hundred thousand which is three times the regional average” bearing in mind that the Latin America and Caribbean region has the highest homicide rate in the world.
In the letter proposing the meeting, Holness reminded Phillips of his December 18 letter in which the Opposition Leader said that the powers granted under the Emergency Powers laws were available under other laws.
“As a former Minister of National Security, you would be aware of, and no doubt utilized yourself these special powers in regular legislation, outside of the integrated and synergetic legal framework of the Emergency Powers Act. You would also be aware that none of these “normal solutions’ have yielded a sustained and long-term reduction in murders and crime generally, hence here we are today,” Holness wrote.
He said that Phillips had also questioned, based on legal advice the constitutionality of the state of public emergency (SOPE) being extended, adding “while I do not share your views….that “in current circumstances ”any extension of the SOPE would be unconstitutional and illegal, I should like to hear from you the circumstances in which the Opposition considers it constitutional and legal for the SOPE to be extended and also to gain a better understanding of your suggestion that special powers can be used just as effectively, outside of the SOPE”.
Holness said he had also taken note that the Opposition Leader had expressed a “willingness to meet with me to discuss and arrive at consensus regarding solutions to the problem” and as a result was proposing a meeting for Wednesday.
The letter from Holness followed a war of words in the public domain between the Office of the Prime Minister and the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) over the crime situation.
In a statement, the Office of the Prime Minister noted that Holness had met with various stakeholders on Monday in an intense planning process to maintain the security gains and the safety of the citizens of Jamaica.