KINGSTON, Aug. 20 (JIS):
The Hon. A.J. Nicholson Minister of Justice & Attorney General
Minister of Justice and Attorney General, A.J. Nicholson, has said that the state of public emergency issued last night (Aug. 19) by the Governor General, on the advice of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, is to ensure the protection of life and property of Jamaicans in the aftermath of Hurricane Dean.
“It is the duty of the government to protect,” the Minister stressed in an interview with JIS News.
He explained that in circumstances where there is a threat of rioting and looting, then the Prime Minister is duty bound to ask the Governor General to give extra powers to the security forces and other authorities to enable them to prevent these occurrences. “This is to better enable the authorities to carry out their duties in these circumstances,” he stated.
According to the Minister, the powers that are given to the authorities must be exercised only for the protection of life and property and “no rights are to be curtailed other than for the protection and preservation of life and property.”
He noted for example, that persons may be prevented from going into a dangerous zone or a place that has been cut off, and if there is imminent threat or danger of looting or reasonable suspicion that this will take place, the security forces may curtail the movement of persons for specific periods.
The Minister pointed out however, that it is not only the security forces that are enabled during a state of public emergency, as agencies of government that have to clear roads, open up closed communities and get facilities and food to remote areas, are also given extra powers. “They may have to commandeer equipment that is owned by private citizens and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) will be able to get supplies to persons in a district that may be cut off,” he said.
“It is in these circumstances that a state of pubic emergency is contemplated by the Jamaican Constitution; it is not a statement to the public that there is anything other than a hurricane having passed through,” the Attorney General told JIS News.
Under the Constitution, the Governor General may issue a proclamation declaring a state of public emergency in certain circumstances, for example, where a hurricane is about to strike or has struck.
The proclamation, according to the Constitution, should be issued for one month. However, it may be revoked before the one-month period because the situation may change