KINGSTON, Jamaica— Jamaican authorities have been engaging with their counterparts in the United States on further measures that can be taken to stem the flow of illegal guns into Jamaica.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the discussions are focused on greater security measures at the country’s ports, including securing more scanners.
“I’ve put to our US friends, the need to require greater identification for persons sending packages to Jamaica from the US,” Holness said on Sunday, as he delivered the main address at the Jamaica Labour Party’s annual conference inside the National Arena.
With the gun being the weapon of choice in upwards of 80 per cent of the more than 1200 murders committed in Jamaica each year, the Government and the security forces are stepping up their efforts to remove the illegal weapons from the nation’s streets. A gun amnesty that ended on Saturday yielded over 90 firearms and more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition according to the prime minister. And more than 650 illegal firearms are being seized each year.
However, pressure was being placed on the Holness administration to increase its lobby of the US Government regarding the flow of guns from that country to Jamaica. Holness said his government will be going further.
“We will also be opening discussions with our US friends to have special operations to target Jamaican dons overseas who are using their resources and influence to solicit and direct murders here in Jamaica,” he said.
He told the conference that for too long, foreign dons have been able to get away with this. “We’re going to ensure that they can no longer stay in another country and direct crime here,” he assured. He blasted those persons for engaging in activities that he said are destroying the communities they left behind.
“Personally, I think it is a shame that someone who got the opportunity to migrate would use that opportunity to seek to make their community a living hell for the people they have left behind,” the prime minister stated.
“Instead of sending back computers and assisting with school fees they’re sending guns and bullets to encourage you to kill your brothers and sisters. They mean us no good. They must be arrested and locked away for good,” he remarked.
Holness vowed that “We will put a stop to this”.
And, he noted that it was not only criminals overseas who were remotely promoting crime and murders in Jamaica..
“In our local prisons, criminals are conducting extortion operations and directing murders; right out of our prisons,” he said.
To curtail the longstanding problem, Holness said he has given instructions for the construction of a high security, the design for which is now complete. He acknowledged that the project has been on the books for some time but said the design and costs were now finalised.
He shared that the new prison, which he described as a “project of strategic national interest,” will make it difficult for inmates to communicate with those on the outside.
The prime minister also pointed to the new Corrections Bill which includes criminal penalty, including stiffer custodial penalties for correctional officers who assist prisoners in obtaining contraband such as cellular phones.