Newsmaker: Xmas parties banned amid violence in 6 St Bess communities Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

This week’s featured overall development as Newsmaker of the Week just ended are the reactions to the news that there will be no public entertainment activities permitted for residents of six St Elizabeth communities this Christmas, as the police have imposed a 30-day ban on all such activities there.

The communities being impacted by the police’s decision are Balaclava, Content, Elim, Goshen, Oxford, and Union.

The measure follows an upsurge in murders that left six people dead within a 48-hour period leading up to Friday, December 8.

With the imposition of the measure, there has been some public outcry, with some business interests and others lamenting that it will affect their normal earnings over the yuletide season. 

Head of the St Elizabeth Police, Acting Superintendent Coleridge Minto, informed the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation of the police’s decision relative to the entertainment ban in a letter dated Tuesday, December 12. 

Both the corporation and the police must issue permits for a public entertainment event to be legally held.

“In light of the recent increase in murders in the division… the listed police areas are banned from conducting/hosting public events such as dances, parties, round robins, drink-outs, etc,” Minto’s letter read in part.

But the pronouncement has not gone down well in some quarters. For example, Councillor for the Balaclava Division in St Elizabeth, the People’s National Party (PNP) Everton Fisher, described the near one-month ban as “draconian” in a newspaper interview on Wednesday. 

But the police, seemingly factoring the festivities associated with this time of the year, gave the greenlight for a Grand Market to be held on Friday, December 22 in Balaclava town centre.

In addition, the ban is to be reviewed on January 8, 2024.

Still, Fisher, while acknowledging that the police have to take the necessary steps to curtail crime, expressed the view that the ban could have a negative effect on the festive season.

“People have travelled and others have booked their flights for the holidays, and so, it (the ban) is concerning,” said Fisher, a former mayor of Black River.

He said for example, in Balaclava, a number of parties and promotions have had to be cancelled because of the ban.

“People have to move parties as far as Evergreen, which is at the Manchester border, so it has really affected a lot of people,” claimed Fisher.

But another PNP Councillor in the parish, Donovan Pagan of the Braes River Division, said he supported the entertainment ban, as having six murders within 48 hours is a “cause for concern”.

He argued that the police had to take the necessary corrective measures that they dem fit, noting that there should be no recurrence of such killings in the parish. 

The murder victims in the usually quiet parish of St Elizabeth included an uncle and his nephew.

The bodies of 46-year-old fisherman Trevor Morgan and his 29-year-old nephew, Rajae Hagigal, were found with gunshot wounds on the morning of December 8 after their house was firebombed in Goshen.

Four other men were killed in separate incidents in the parish.

On Friday, Minto defended the entertainment ban, stating that it was imposed because of intelligence relative to a possible reprisal attack for the murder of 46-year-old Lennox Leachman, who was shot dead at a dance at about 2am on December 8 in Union Square, Balaclava.

“There is information that men are actively planning to reprise the killing of the deceased (Leachman) in the Balaclava space,” Minto told reporters.

“… And so, based on the intel and to ensure that there’s public order and safety, we took a decision to restrict public gatherings for some events in Balaclava and neighbouring communities,” he indicated.

Still, some social media users were visibly upset by the entertainment ban, despite the rationale that was presented by the police.

“Entertainment is a big business. Why each time there are any killing they ban entertainment? This is… madness.

“Is this the plan you all have in fighting crime?” a man asked on Facebook.

In response, another man explained that, “They (the police) are trying to minimise the casualties if there is a reprisal. 

“These guys nowadays will see one man that they want at a party and shoot at him wildly without care for other person’s safety, because they are not obligated to (do so) like the security forces,” he added. 

Commented a woman: “I’m from Elim (in St Elizabeth) and I can tell you this is going to be a very poor Christmas because the little entertainment brings everyone together. So I’m not in support of it (the entertainment ban).” 

Said a man: “I’m so sorry for those people who spend their money to host a party and cannot go ahead with it.” 

Another man urged social media users to allow the security forces to manage and take control of the crime situation.

“A safe environment and community benefits all of us. The more we work with the security forces in managing this crime situation, the better our communities would be,” the man insisted.