Located along the strip, one of the major corridors to be blocked off from vehicular access from 5:00 pm today to 5:00 pm tomorrow, are financial institutions, places of entertainment, restaurants, government agencies, and at least three shopping centres.
At a press conference at Jamaica House yesterday, head of the Police Border and Security Branch, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) James Golding said the businesses would be contacted in order to make arrangements, but information minister Senator Sandrea Falconer insisted that due to security concerns, the public could not be given details of the plans for access.
“We would not be allowed to give detailed information with too much of an advance. What we will be doing is contacting the business owners on Knutsford Boulevard, in addition to all the mass media announcements that we will make, and they can make that determination as to how they will treat it,” she said.
In the meantime, the authorities said that they are satisfied with the level of preparation at this point. “There is a fair level of satisfaction. We are relying on the Jamaican people to abide by the guidelines that have been developed,” Golding said.
But Jamaicans will have to brace themselves for major restrictions in the Corporate Area as the Jamaican Government works feverishly, in collaboration with the president’s team, to ensure that all is ready to accommodate the leader of the free world.
Emancipation Park, a major public space for Jamaicans from across the island, will also be closed at midday today. Other major and access roads to be closed off include sections of Camp Road, Arnold Road, Half-Way-Tree Road, Hope Road, Slipe Road, Caledonia Avenue, Caledonia Crescent, Arthur Wint Drive, Central Avenue, North Avenue, Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts, Old Hope Road, Eureka Crescent, Ripon Road, Oxford Road, Belmont Road, Haining Road, Trinidad Terrace, and Slipe Road.
Falconer said, while it is expected that most corridors will be closed “for some time”, it is possible that these closures could be extended in particular circumstances.
At the same time, head of the Traffic Division, Senior Superintendent Calvin Allen advised that members of the public who wish to watch the presidential motorcade can do so from the sidewalks and other pedestrian areas, except in instances where there are restrictions such as police barriers and service vehicles.
Lieutenant Colonel David Cummings of the Jamaica Defence Force, in charge of operations and security for the visit, said that by keeping onlookers at a particular distance, there will be less need for body searches, but that these cannot be ruled out.
“You can’t rule out persons being searched. There are circumstances, on any normal day on any given street, an individual can be searched. Clearly, those persons who have to come in close proximity, we would inform them of what the restrictions are, and that will be done in a respectable manner,” he said.
SSP Allen made it clear that, while the arrangements necessitate traffic diversion, “the Road Traffic Act will not be put on hold. So if a person commits a breach, they will be dealt with”. He said that the police will be out in their numbers to give directions and provide guidance.
Timelines for Obama’s appearance at various venues are still being kept hushed, but the president will be in the island for at least 20 hours before he departs for Panama for the Seventh Summit of the Americas from April 10-11.
He is slated to hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller at Jamaica House tomorrow, followed by a meeting with Caricom heads, then move on to the wreath-laying ceremony at National Heroes Park, followed by a youth forum at the University of the West Indies.