(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – Prime Minister Andrew Holness has condemned the killing of two primary school students in Salt Spring, St James on Monday evening, asserting that “violence in all its form is abhorrent and must be strongly punished.”
“…When violence touches our innocent children, who have their entire lives ahead of them, and robs our country of their potential, all of society must stand up and say, ‘enough is enough!’
“Our heart goes out to the family and loved ones of the victims of this senseless act of terror, and I am sure that all well-thinking Jamaicans are surrounding the grieving parents of the innocent children with prayers of support and comfort at this sad time,” Holness said.
Reports are that shortly after 7 pm on Monday, the students, along with a man – who is believed to be the intended target – were gunned down.
This is the latest in a series of deadly shootings that have rocked the Salt Spring community in recent times.
“This barbaric and merciless act of terror demonstrates once again that gunmen and gangs are a clear and present threat to the foundations of our free and democratic society,” the prime minister stated.
“Through the wanton use of violence, gangs and gunmen hold entire communities hostage, depriving citizens of their economic livelihood and their rights to move, speak and associate freely in their communities. They violate the ultimate right of every human being, the right to life. However, these gunmen choose to execute their wanton violence indiscriminately in public spaces and on innocent civilians including children. This indiscriminate and random violence not only creates local fear but creates a national feeling of insecurity as the probability of being a victim rises for everyone. These gunmen and gang members are not mere criminals, they are like terrorists and should be treated as such,” Holness added.
“It is unfortunate that we not only battle these criminal terrorists, we must also contend with a narrative that oftentimes seems to offer greater protection to criminals with lighter sentences and preservation of their life and freedoms, rather than supporting stronger punitive, proactive and pre-emptive measures against these terrorists while securing redress and restoration for the victims. My administration will continue to invest heavily in increasing the capacity and capabilities of our security forces in intercepting and interdicting criminal terrorists,” he said.
The prime minister stated that he believes the perpetrator of this act will be caught in short order by the police.
“…However, this is after the fact of the loss of innocent lives. We must implement tougher measures to create greater deterrence against the commission of these acts of terror. This is why we have passed a new Bail Act and a new Firearms Act which increased the penalty for the possession and use of illegal firearms. And this is why we have before Parliament an amendment to increase the scheme of penalty for murder,” he noted.
He is urging citizens to “speak with one voice in condemning this wanton and brutal murder of our children.”
“…likewise we must also speak with one clear voice that we will apply the penalties with the greatest deterrent effect to the criminal terrorist to ensure that such senseless acts of terror never happen again,” Holness added.
On October 26, students of Salt Spring Primary School were left traumatised by the shooting deaths of 22-year-old Imani Jarrett and her common-law husband, 30-year-old Odane Smith.
Just mere hours later, Anthony Forbes was shot and killed in the early hours of Friday morning while at home with his son. His son was injured during the attack, which saw assailants kicking in the door to their dwelling.