Editorial: Prepare, don't panic
MUCH OF the world is on edge. The heightened risk of more terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere has placed countries on alert with most reviewing security arrangements to try to keep out militants, who have been fomenting bloodshed and flexing their murderous muscles all over the globe.
The attacks in Paris last weekend, following so closely behind the Russian airline bombing, demonstrated the militants’ ability to launch attacks on any target anywhere in the world. In the aftermath of these events, every country must now be thinking how to respond and defend its citizens.
While Jamaica is not named among the 30 countries in which terror threats are said to be high, this appears to be no time for complacency. Some of the countries on that dreaded list include Spain and Turkey, which attract millions of tourists annually. No country is immune. But of grave concern to Jamaica must be the fact that militants who have been criss-crossing international borders from the Middle East could use Jamaica as a route to get to intended targets in the United States.
The arrests in Honduras of five Syrian nationals carrying fake Greek passports, and the three men believed to be Syrians who also carried false Greek passports when they were recently held at the Princess Juliana International Airport in St Maarten, have given rise to a sense of unease in the region.
It is against this background that National Security Minister Peter Bunting has announced heightened surveillance measures by the relevant units in the Jamaica Defence Force and Constabulary Force. As far as the Jamaica Constabulary Force is concerned, it has the unenviable task of fending off local criminals while trying to put in place measures, that in the event of an attack, may minimise the population’s vulnerability in public areas where there is heavy concentration of people such as shopping malls, schools, churches, sporting centres and entertainment venues.
The militants appear to be bent on creating mayhem and chaos and spreading fear. Of course, terrorism thrives on fear. The chaotic scenes that have been beamed from cities around the world in recent times have helped to convey the message that no place is safe. While there is no useful purpose served by sounding alarm bells or sparking anxiety, we urge individuals to raise their personal level of vigilance, especially when they are in public spaces and public transport. For one thing, persons should try to identify emergency exits when in such congregations or gatherings.
It is also useful to have telephone and emergency contacts. Security measures implemented by the forces will not be enough to defeat these militants. Jamaicans are not known to be great whistle blowers, but given the current environment, people must be prepared to report any and every suspicious activity which they observe.
This kind of civic response may save lives in the end. Business persons, especially operators of attractions and entertainment venues, should be undertaking their own risk assessments and, if thought necessary, seek professional security advice in order to protect life and property.
Those involved in sensitive areas such as transport and shipping should likewise consider how to sharpen their disaster preparedness. We think it useful for the Office of Disaster Preparedness to lead the charge in preparing a manual that will help to guide citizens on how to recognise a terrorist threat and react in such a crisis.