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07KINGSTON1270 2007-08-19 22:38:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kingston
Cable title:  

JAMAICA: POLITICAL RAMIFICATIONS OF HURRICANE DEAN

Tags:   PREL PGOV PTER PINR SOCI ASEC CASC JM 
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1.(SBU) Summary: As of August 19, 2007, Hurricane Dean is
still a category-4 hurricane, but some predictions show it
increasing to a category-5 before it leaves the vicinity of
Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. The latest computer models
have the eye of the storm passing just South of Jamaica,
meaning the dangerous winds could strike Kingston. According
to local media accounts, as of 1530 local time, the airport
road is impassable. National Elections for Jamaica are
scheduled for August 27, 2007, with the police and military
scheduled to vote early on Tuesday, August 21. If the
Government of Jamaica (GOJ) declares an emergency, the
Governor General will likely announce a postponement of
voting. End Summary.



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--
The Ambassador speaks to the Opposition Leader


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--

2.(C) Ambassador Johnson spoke with Jamaican Prime Minster
Portia Simpson-Miller (PM PSM) and Opposition Leader Bruce
Golding (OPP LDR) via telephone on Sunday, August 19. OPP
LDR was adamant that there was no need to declare a National
State of Emergency. However, OPP LDR also expressed, "The
Prime Minister is hell-bent on declaring a National State of
Emergency." OPP LDR also stated that in a National State of
Emergency all civil rights are suspended automatically,
including habeas corpus, thus giving the ruling government
and the Office of the Prime Minister extraordinary legal
powers. OPP LDR recalled that in the 1970s a previous ruling
government declared a National State of Emergency and used
the special powers to have police arrest opposition party
candidates, thus impeding the party's ability to campaign for
election. OPP LDR expressed that it was unlikely that the
security situation will warrant such drastic measures. OPP
LDR expressed he had been in touch with key government
personnel and had received no reports of looting or violence
since the GOJ announced a nation-wide curfew on Saturday,
August 18 at 1800 hours local time. However, when questioned
by Ambassador Johnson, OPP LDR acknowledged that during
Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the Prime Minister PJ Patterson
declared a state of emergency prior to the hurricane reaching
the island.



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And with the Prime Minister


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3.(C) PM PSM stated, during her August 19 phone conversation
with Ambassador Johnson, that she was concerned with the
possibility of post hurricane violence and looting. She said
she had received reports of two shootings on August 19, one
in August Town and one in another undisclosed area of
Kingston. PM PSM has not stated when, or if, she will
declare a state of emergency. PM PSM maintained she was
looking at all options, and that she was "concerned only for
the People of Jamaica's well being, and not worrying about
elections or political campaigns at this time." PM PSM did
confirm that if she determines a National State of Emergency
is necessary, would notify the Governor General (GG), who
will make the formal announcement, in accordance with
Jamaican Law. PM PSM further emphasized her concerns for the
poor people of Jamaica, stating that once electricity from
the national power grid is cut, water will also be cut off,
and that the rich would likely have generators and other
comforts in place, while the poor who live in the
highest-risk areas will be isolated and likely unwilling to
leave their homes.



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PM willing to accept USG assistance after Dean passes


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4.(SBU) Ambassador Johnson spoke with PM PSM a second time at
approximately 1400 hours local time on Sunday, August 19. PM
PSM was at her residence and expressed a desire to facilitate
any USG assistance that could be provided to help the People
of Jamaica. After Ambassador Johnson carefully explained all
the necessary steps for OFDA, USAID, and other USG Agencies
to provide USG disaster assistance to Jamaica, PM PSM said
that Jamaica would accept any assistance the USG is able to
provide. She stated that she understands the situation, and
knows the GOJ cannot handle the situation without foreign
assistance.

5.(C) With the approach of Dean, some commentators have
criticized PM PSM's decision to call elections during the
height of hurricane season. In the storm's aftermath, if the
charismatic PM is widely perceived as energetically and
successfully coordinating assistance and recovery, she could
turn the disaster to her political advantage; conversely an
appearance of poor coordination could weaken her support in
the upcoming election. On the other hand, Bruce Golding,
having been forced already to conduct an election campaign
much longer than he had expected or wanted, now must face the
prospect of still further delay in the national vote at a
time when momentum seemed to be shifting his way. He will
have a delicate task to conceal his frustration and make
clear the welfare of Jamaicans is his top priority.

JOHNSON