Let's protect tourism, rename SOE - Montague - but guns still barking despite state of emergency
Like some business stakeholders in the parish, National Security Minister Robert Montague is wary about the impact the ongoing state of public emergency (SOE) in St James could ultimately have on the tourism sector and is proposing a creative option to alter the negative impression the initiative is creating.
Montague, who toured several sections of St James on Sunday and spoke to residents and business stakeholders, said the SOE label was creating a negative impression in the eyes of potential visitors to the island. He is arguing that, given the significance of tourism to the nation's economy, the initiative should be given a less ominous-sounding name.
"We want to make it very clear that after this afternoon, we will no longer refer to the operation in St James as a state of emergency. We will refer to it as enhanced security measures," said Montague. "We are in the tourism capital; tourism is the lifeblood. The state of emergency has a negative connotation overseas."
However, less than four hours after Montague toured commu-nities such as Norwood and Glendevon, where crime-weary residents gave the SOE the thumbs up, residents in Catherine Hall got a scary reminder of the terror that existed prior to the SOE.
Shortly after 9:30 p.m., a 21-year-old unemployed man was standing at his gate when a man, whose face was covered by a mask, pounced on him, firing a barrage of shots. The man suffered several bullet wounds but survived the attack. He is now recuperating in hospital.
"All inna de state of emergency de man dem still a fire shot ... . Is like dem nuh care bout the soldier and police dem," a Catherine Hall resident told The Gleaner yesterday. "Mi really worried bout wha go gwaan when the state of emergency done, because we know seh gun out yah like bush and de soldier not finding many."
State of emergency needed until the hundreds of guns are recovered - senior cop
Since the start of the state of emergency, there have been two murders in the parish, one at a funeral in the Quarry community and another in Tucker. Since January, St James, which had a record 335 murders last year, has recorded 12 murders and 21 other incidents of shooting.
"If we still having shootings despite arresting and charging so many wanted men, can you imagine where the murder count would be if we did not have the emergency?" asked a senior police officer yesterday. "This operation should not end until we recovered the hundreds of guns gangsters were firing in their communities on New Year's night."
While the number of persons detained under the SOE was down to a mere 10 persons yesterday, the St James police have issued a fresh list of 15 most wanted persons. The list included one female who is implicated in a shooting incident.