Jamaica’s House of Representatives has voted to extend the state of emergency for St. James Parish until May 2. The emergency order, which was first issued in January 18, includes popular Jamaica tourist area Montego Bay.
“It was not anticipated that all that is required would be accomplished in 14 days,” said Jamaica’s Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, in a statement on the Jamaican government’s website. “It is reasonable to expect that even with extraordinary powers, it will take some time to affect the situation in St. James.”
Holness said that the country is continuing to work to build confidence between the public and the security forces.
“While we acknowledge that there will be some disruption and fallout, we must take back control of our country and we must dismantle the network of organized crime,” Holness said, noting that rampant criminality, including murder, lottery scamming, trafficking and other illicit businesses, is evidence of an ecosystem of crime that is well resourced and interconnected. The state of emergency grants security forces the power to search, curtail the operating hours of business, restrict access to places and detain persons without a warrant, as well as to stop and question persons, seize property and control public gatherings and movements.
Caribbean travel experts we spoke with immediately after the order was issued agree that Montego Bay is still a safe destination for tourists. The travel agents we spoke with also reported that they had not seen a decline in bookings for Jamaica or Montego Bay in the immediate aftermath of the declaration of a state of emergency.
The State Department’s travel advisory for Jamaica has not changed since it was last updated on January 10, as part of a comprehensive reorganization of the way in which the department presents travel security information by country. Jamaica is currently rated Level 2 out of a possible four, “Exercise Increased Caution.” Travelers are advised not to travel to some areas of Kingston, Montego Bay and Spanish Town due to crime, as well as to avoid walking or driving at night, public buses and secluded places or situations, even in resorts. The full security information is available here.