Facebook Twitter

Jamaican chief has no regrets about deployment

SHARE Jamaican chief has no regrets about deployment

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Less than two weeks after deploying soldiers to quell violence that killed 28 people, Jamaica's prime minister said on Friday that he wouldn't hesitate to use the army again.

The recent fighting erupted in a poor area of Kingston on July 7 as police moved in to search for guns in a home for the elderly near the Tivoli Gardens — a stronghold of the opposition Jamaica Labor Party.

"All communities must recognize they are subject to the law," Prime Minister P.J. Patterson said during a conference call with reporters.

Three police officers and a soldier were among those killed in the three days of gunbattles and protests by opposition supporters.

The violence and protests prompted Patterson to order the full deployment of country's army on July 9, but the number of soldiers on the streets appears to have dwindled since then.

Throughout the fighting and in the days following it, opposition leader Edward Seaga demanded the army be withdrawn, charging authorities were targeting his supporters because his party was leading in polls, even though elections aren't due until December 2002.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Kingston's many gangs were used to rustle up votes for Jamaica's two main political parties. Although the gangs now focus on drugs, most maintain political loyalties.

On Friday, Patterson denied there was any political motive in sending the soldiers out, saying police also searched areas traditionally loyal to his People's National Party.

Patterson said he was unsure how much the unrest would affect the economy, which appeares to be recovering after a five-year recession.

"We cannot at this stage determine the extent of the damage to the economy," Patterson said. "We still are working toward ensuring that growth will be somewhere between 2 to 4 percent."