Portia defends emergency call

The State of public emergency declared by Governor-General Professor Kenneth Hall on the advice of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller might be shortlived if electricity is restored before the end of the week.

In the wake of Hurricane Dean, the Prime Minister advised the Governor-General to make the proclamation on Sunday.

Speaking Monday at a post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House to assess the impact of the hurricane on the island, Mrs. Simpson Miller told journalists that her decision to call a State of Public Emergency was intended to protect human rights, in particular “the right to life”.

She argued that the State of Public Emergency did not give the security forces the right to abuse the rights of Jamaicans.

Dismissing suggestions that the declaration was made with ulterior motives, Mrs. Simpson Miller charged that her decision was without partisan consideration.

“People were imputing motives, my only motive was to ensure that the country would be protected and, in thick darkness across the country, how would I be able to guarantee safety of the people unless the security forces would be out there and be able to take action,” she stressed.

Mrs. Simpson Miller assured members of the media that as soon as the Jamaica Public Service Company restored power across the country, the State of Public Emergency would be reviewed and lifted.

The Opposition Spokesman on Justice, Delroy Chuck, has raised questions about the need for the declaration of a State of Public Emergency.

Chuck, in a Gleaner interview, said that up to mid-afternoon yesterday, the Jamaica Labour Party’s assessment of the effects of the hurricane had indicated that the Prime Minister’s instructions for the Governor-General to declare a State of Public Emergency might have been ill advised.

“Our assessment in terms of problems with disruptions or damage caused by the hurricane or communities not getting supplies indicate that at this moment there is no justification,” he said.

Meanwhile, attempts by candidates contesting the general election to get relief supplies directly from Food for the Poor for constituents hit by Hurricane Dean, failed yesterday, as principals at the non-governmental agency, said they would only distribute supplies through the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.

Minister of Local Government and Environment, Dean Peart confirmed yesterday that ODPEM, in collaboration with Food for the Poor and other relief agencies had full responsibility fordistributing supplies to affected persons and no politician would be involved in the process.

The Gleaner was reliably informed that several candidates lined up at Food for the Poor to collect supplies but were disappointed as the poor relief agency refused to hand over the goods to the politicians.

It was reported that 350 personnel from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security would be dispatched today across the island, to carry out an assessment of damage to houses and the agriculture sector.

The Prime Minister expressed regret at the death of two persons during the passage of the hurricane.

She listed the priority areas for attention as schools, health facilities, electricity and water.

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