|Gov't moves against gangs
Three sections of capital under curfew as PM outlines strategy
Monday, December 02, 2002
Police and soldiers early yesterday morning imposed a 48-hour curfew on three of Kingston's more volatile areas, 15 hours before Prime Minister P J Patterson gave the country a broad outline of what he said was his administration's "comprehensive" initiatives to "dismantle criminal gangs".
The curfew, which began at 5:00 am, is scheduled to end at the same time tomorrow and affects sections of West Kingston - specifically the Denham Town and Hannah Town boundaries - and South St Andrew.
"Last night saw the launch of a joint police/military action in certain targeted communities to smash the criminal gangs that have caused such havoc," Patterson said in an address to the nation last night.
"The process of identifying the gangs, the nature of their criminal enterprise and their style of operation has now been completed, based on intelligence and research," the prime minister said.
He said the security forces will maintain an active and vigilant presence in certain targeted communities which, based on the information they have, are being used by drug dealers and gangs as cover to maintain turf and unleash terror, not only on the beleaguered residents of those communities, but on the country.
"The mission is to get the guns out of the hands of these criminals and drug dealers and to strengthen the protection and human rights of the overwhelming majority of decent and law-abiding citizens who live in these communities," said Patterson, whose administration has been taking heavy flak for its inability to stem the island's spiralling murder rate.
More than 900 Jamaicans have died violently so far this year. The majority of killings have involved the use of guns
Last night, Patterson said that despite the nature of the severe threat that the country faces, the Government decided against declaring a state of emergency.
"What we will see during this period is a new and forceful use of the army to effectively counter a group of highly-armed and extremely ruthless criminals with significant international links," Patterson said.
He described the drive as "aggressive" and said it would "disrupt and dislocate these gangs and put an end to their evil designs".
He sought to assure residents of the targeted communities that they had no reason to fear the presence of the security forces, and announced that a system would be set up for citizens who have complaints against actions by the army to have recourse.
"Aggrieved citizens and communities will have access to a constituted body with appropriate human rights personnel under the direction of an ombudsman, to deal with any such complaints," Patterson said.
He also said that the police/military initiative will be accompanied by a "stepped-up programme of economic and social renewal" that will be addressed with the same intensity and vigour of the security matters.
In addition, Patterson said, the Government will be moving to plug legal loopholes "through which the criminals can escape the hand of justice" and he announced that a special legal team is being established, under the leadership of the attorney-general, "to ensure the urgency which our situation demands".
Said Patterson: "Barbados has found it necessary to amend its constitution so that capital punishment is not abolished by judicial decree. In order to take similar action, we will require the co-operation of the Opposition, which we plan to seek."
He said that Jamaicans were "substantially agreed" on the need to resume the death penalty and it was his administration's intention to "heed the voice of the people".
"Our purpose is clear," he said. "To restore peace and order everywhere throughout our land."