Did You Know?
Since its Independence in 1962, Jamaica has had a total of six states of emergency. Here are some interesting facts you probably didn’t know about them:
- Since Independence, Jamaica has experienced a total of seven states of emergency.
- The longest state of emergency was in 1976. It lasted for one year.
- Natural disasters – Hurricane Ivan (2004) and Hurricane Dean (2007) – have accounted for two of Jamaica’s six states of emergency.
- Crime and violence has accounted for five of Jamaica’s states of emergency.
- Political violence, or threats thereof, have been directly responsible for two of the six states of emergency.
Details of Jamaica’s States of Emergency
Here is a synopsis of what each state of emergency was about:
From October 3 to November 2, a State of Emergency was enforced in West Kingston, triggered by political violence in a constituency held by Cabinet Minister Edward Seaga. The prime minister at the time was Alexander Bustamante.
With political violence at an all-time high, and elections looming, Prime Minister Michael Manley advised the governor general to declare the state of public emergency that lasted an entire year – until June 1977. It is said that the action was taken because of reports of attempts to overthrow the Government. This has been disputed by members of the opposing party, who claim that it was more of a ‘smokescreen’ political move to ascertain an election win.
Ahead of category-four Hurricane Ivan, and with evacuation orders issued to almost 500,000 people in the 14 parishes of Jamaica, a state of emergency was declared by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. The national electricity grid was also shut down, leading to a black-out across the island, and security troops being deployed to enforce adherence to the state of emergency restrictions.
A day after Hurricane Dean ravaged sections of the island, leaving much destruction in its wake, the Portia Simpson-Miller-led government had to declare a two-day state of emergency.
In advance of the attempt to arrest Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke on an extradition warrant, a state of emergency was declared by Prime Minister Bruce Golding for the parishes of Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine. During this time, what has now become popularly known as the Tivoli Incursion occurred, with the stand-off between security forces and members of the ‘Shower Posse’ gang leaving an estimated 71 civilians dead.
On the morning of Thursday, January 18, 2018, Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared a public state of emergency in St James, attributed to increasing crime and violence in the parish. Holness said: “The level of criminal activity experienced [in St James] is of such a nature and so extensive in scale as to endanger public safety.” In 2017, St James recorded 335 murders, almost twice more than the parish with the second-highest murders for the same period.
On Sunday, March 18, 2018, Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared a state of public emergency in the St Catherine North Police Division (especially Spanish Town, Linstead and Bog Walk). The basis for the declaration was the spike in murders in these areas, and also the prevalence of gang activities.
- See our almost verbatim reproduction of statements at the press briefing where the SOE was announced
- See our infographics explaining What is A State of Emergency and how this affects citizens
- See our timeline of how events around the St James SOE unfolded
- See Kevin O’Brien Chang’s article ‘The Road To A Cruel Jamaica’
- Check out the New York Time’s article, ‘Jamaica’s Emergency Rule Reduces Political Violence’