Clinton Pickering – Freelance Writer
With an unending list of strategies by the police failing to deal effectively with murderous marauders in western Jamaica, the army has moved in.
Montpelier is once again an army base and this time it is permanent and will become a smaller version of the Jamaica Defence Force’s headquarters at Up Park Camp in Kingston.
The build-up of army personnel in Western Jamaica was outlined to Justices of the Peace attending a quarterly meeting of the Lay Magistrates Association of Jamaica St James Chapter at the Montego Bay Community College on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 by Major Godfrey Sterling.
Sterling is Acting Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion Jamaica Regiment, which is now headquartered in Montego Bay.
Setting the basis for an increased army presence, Major Sterling recalled that, “following the heels of havoc wreaked by the Stone Crusher Gang 2008/09 period, things in Montego Bay and St James in general, moreso the greater western belt, seemed to be going quite well,” but “toward the end of 2013, we would have seen a resurgence of violence on levels unprecedented in this town.”
While the army has had a significant presence in the western region over the last two and a half years, Major Sterling outlined what can be expected going forward as it carries out the government’s mandate “to give assurance to the citizens of this region that it can and will provide for their safety and security.”
The 2nd Battalion is responsible for the Western Command of the JDF and covers the parishes of Trelawny, St James, Hanover, Westmoreland and St Elizabeth. Major Sterling envisions setting down roots and establishing partners and “to that end, the 2nd Battalion will not just deploy to the western region, but over the next three years, we’ll be garrisoning ourselves among these parishes.”
He went on to outline what this will mean.
“At Montpelier, we’re going to build out a small version of Up Park Camp but one that will, hopefully, stand as a beacon to the JDF’s commitment to bringing back safety and security.”
The barracks at Providence will be expanded by five acres “so that we can have a presence in St James and Montego Bay that is commensurate to the threat,” said Major Sterling. Also, a base will be built at Montego Freeport to house JDF soldiers and Coastguards. This will also be replicated in Westmoreland.
“It is hoped that these bases will give us enough of a spread that will allow minimum response time during issues as and when they do arise,” said the Commanding Officer.