National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang says that Jamaica will have to continue collaborating with major external partners in handling transnational crimes until it is in a position to properly monitor its borders.
Dr Chang said that despite the best efforts of previous police units, such as ‘Kingfish’, they could not operate effectively within the constitutional space they had to work with while dealing with transnational crimes.
As a result, Jamaica was forced to revisit and renegotiate co-operation agreements with long-standing international partners, including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, in order to continue the partnership needed to apprehend transnational criminals.
“It was necessary to do so, because we are currently operating without any of those tools under which those governments are operating with and doing some good work,” Dr Chang said, as he closed the 2019/20 sectoral debate in the House of Representatives Wednesday night.
He said that in the circumstances bilateral agreements, like the Shiprider Agreement, became necessary in order to stem the transnational guns for drugs or guns for food trades, which have been overwhelming Jamaican crime fighters because of the quantity of guns flooding the country from Jamaicans abroad.
“Criminal enterprises operating within the country are running a major business, and we have to ensure that we protect our borders not only in the wider area, but also in the legitimate parts,” he said.
According to Dr Chang, there are still areas where significant amounts of contraband — guns, ammunition, cigarettes and even human trafficking — are coming into the country.
He said that the Government is taking steps to improve the country’s border security, by strengthening the Coast Guard with new vehicles, maritime patrol vessels and aircraft, as well as the formation of a new Maritime Air and Cyber Command unit.
“And, if you understand the rate of transnational crime in Jamaica, you will understand that, unless we do this efficiently and well and disrupt the criminal enterprises, the homicide rates will never go down,” Chang explained.
He accused rich Jamaican criminals based abroad of buying the guns and sending them into local inner-city areas, where unemployed youths are tempted to become their gang members.
“And if you lock up 20 (of these youths), they find 20 more while unemployment remains high in the area,” he noted.
He said that the Government is attempting to do other things to suppress crime, but pointed out that it was “crucial” that the security forces aim at the big, transnational criminal enterprises to stop the flow of guns and ammunition.
Several of the criminal gangs in Jamaica, he said, are being financed from abroad, by people who have established themselves as “dons” in different communities across the island.
“We cannot reach them so easy, so therefore we have to continue to collaborate with our international partners to apprehend and prosecute these criminals, in particular in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom,” he stated.
Dr Chang also explained that it is for these reasons that the current Shiprider Agreement, between the United States and regional countries, had become necessary and remains important in the fight against transnational crimes.
He said, however, that the Government was seeking to address the legal issues which are restraining the security forces in their efforts to fight crime, and is working to ensure the necessary legal amendments are approved in order to give the police more support in carrying out their duties.
He said that his ministry has been working very hard with the Attorney General’s Department and the foreign affairs ministry, almost on a daily basis, to ensure that these amendments are completed with urgency and approved by Parliament.