Tue | May 24, 2022

Chang admits familiarity could factor in JDF-Denham Town tension

... but says soldiers adequately trained

Published:Saturday | May 14, 2022 | 12:09 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Dr Horace Chang, national security minister.
Dr Horace Chang, national security minister.

WESTERN BUREAU:

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang is defending the ability of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) to respond to all situations, arguing that the island’s soldiers are well trained.

Chang was speaking with The Gleaner yesterday in the wake of recent clashes between JDF personnel and residents of Denham Town in Kingston, which has been blanketed by cops and soldiers under a zone of special operations (ZOSO) in place for almost five years.

In one widely circulated video, a man and woman were seen tussling with soldier and were later detained. In a second video, a woman, who is said to be pregnant, was captured confronting a soldier before being pushed and kicked at by another JDF member.

While he did not directly respond to questions as to whether the agitation could be a result of soldiers being assigned what are largely viewed as policing duties, Chang admitted that the hostility could be a result of the length of time the soldiers have been in the space.

“They are well trained, so that’s not the problem,” said the national security minister.

“I think it’s the level of familiarity based on the time that they have been there. And we also understand that there are some agitation by elements which are not very comfortable with their [army’s] presence,” said Chang who is also the deputy prime minister.

He told The Gleaner that the operations within the Denham Town ZOSO are being reviewed.

“The matter is being reviewed to see what the real case is, and those that we can correct will be corrected,” said Chang.

Probes into the incidents are being conducted by the Independent Commission of Investigations as well as the army.

Despite the recent hostility, Chang noted that the ZOSO has brought a significant level of calm to Denham Town, adding that the majority of the citizens want it to remain.

Last week, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that he would not be quick to discontinue the security measure based on the recent clashes.

“Let me make it clear to whichever intelligence is operating behind criminality that the Government of Jamaica will not pull down the zone of special operations in Denham Town to give space to criminals,” Holness said.

There are currently six ZOSOs across the island, which aim to combat crime in the communities while building out social infrastructure.

albert.ferguson@gleanerjm.com

Declared ZOSOs across the island

Mount Salem, St James – Declared September 1, 2017

Denham Town, Kingston – Declared October 2017

Greenwich Town, Kingston – Declared July 1, 2020

August Town, St Andrew – Declared July 8, 2020

Parade Gardens, Kingston – Declared January 9, 2022

Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland – Declared January 13, 2022