While hinting that the recent violent confrontations with members of the security forces may have been orchestrated by criminal minds, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has issued a stern warning that the Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) in Denham Town will not be removed from the community.
“The kind of crime that we’re facing is not just random arbitrary street-level crime. It is intelligence behind criminality in Jamaica, meaning that there are criminals who sit down and plan and organise…,” declared Holness.
“So let me make it clear (to) whichever intelligence is operating behind the criminality, the Government of Jamaica will not pull down the Zone of Special Operations in Denham Town to give space to criminals!” he thundered.
Holness’ remarks came after the wide circulation of two videos showing residents of Denham Town clashing with members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
In one incident on Wednesday, a soldier was seen using his rifle to repeatedly hit a man after a military team was confronted by boisterous residents.
In another video, a woman, said to be pregnant, was kicked and shoved by another soldier during another heated exchange.
There have been calls from some residents for the soldiers to be removed from the ZOSO that was established in the crime-plagued community, but that desire has since been scoffed at by the Government.
While speaking at a handing-over ceremony for a social housing unit in August Town, St Andrew on Friday, Holness admitted that the process of establishing peace in Denham Town has not been as swift as in the other ZOSOs across the island.
But he said it was not “an excuse” to withdraw the security and community-binding measure from the area.
Instead, he said the Government “will be intensifying its attention on Denham Town, to put in the necessary leadership and resources to give that safety, security and peace guaranteed to those Jamaican citizens who reside” in the community.
Meantime, Holness reiterated that “the Government of Jamaica will never, in any way, empower our security forces to abuse our citizens.
“… I think everyone who wears a uniform and is under oath to serve and protect must understand that directive of the Government,” he said.
The prime minister said since the recent clashes in Denham Town, he has held discussions with the head of the JDF and Minister of National Security, Dr Horace Chang, to ensure that the security forces continue to respect the human rights of residents of areas where ZOSOs are in effect.
“We have given certain instructions about the conduct of the security forces in those areas, and we expect that those directives will be properly and thoroughly executed to ensure that we preserve life and enhance the security of the citizens, which is what the zones were designed to do,” stated Holness.
Amid those directives to the security forces, he implored residents within the ZOSOs and in general, where appropriate, to change way they approach and interact with members of the security forces going forward.