Thu | Jul 27, 2017

George Davis | Politicians sitting ducks

Published:Wednesday | May 17, 2017 | 5:00 AM

I have long fretted about the safety of our political leaders, given the easy access that the public, and especially members of the press, have to certain spaces in which our members of parliament, senators and Cabinet ministers congregate.

My worries increased in the aftermath of news that a man had mowed down several persons near Westminster Bridge in London, before abandoning the vehicle and fatally stabbing a policeman in the front yard of the House of Commons.

A major part of the story is the panic that was triggered by the shots fired by security personnel who took down the attacker. Members of parliament barricaded themselves inside the Commons, only for plainclothes security personnel to break down some doors, thinking that terrorists had somehow wormed themselves inside and were holding persons hostage.

Despite the numerous security officers present, some heavily armed and many with combat experience fighting against deadly terrorists in parts of the Middle East, panic set in. And as I watched the story unravel on March 22 and 23 this year, my mind came back home to Jamaica.

I may catch some heat from my colleagues in media, but I swear that the level of security at places where our politicians gather is way too lax. By security, I don't mean the harassment kind where some dude wearing sunglasses, a bad attitude, the cologne of self-importance, and an oversize suit blocks you from asking questions of a relevant minister or MP.

By security, I don't mean the kind where said dude ushers the minister or MP away, even when the official wants to engage with the reporter. By security, I do mean asking journalists to submit to a scan by a metal detector and also the scanning of their bags and belongings.

 

A MORTAL BLOW

 

As usual, we specialise in the piecemeal approach to so many things in this country, and security is just one of them. At Gordon House, there is a metal detector, along with uniformed police personnel doing some screening. But in real terms, surveillance of your bags, equipment and person as a journalist is rarely done at Gordon House. You simply flash your identification card and move on up.

In my experience, I have had a policewoman insist that I remove my tiny earring before proceeding to the media area, while no attempt was made to determine if I had a knife or dagger hidden under my clothes or whether some bomb was strapped to my body.

Contrast the presence of a police post at the entrance to Parliament with the ridiculous absence of any attempt at surveillance at an event like the swearing in of Cabinet ministers at King's House. I've been to four such events, and each time I worry about how easy it is for someone posing as a journalist to strike a mortal blow against governance in this country.

Usually, after the oaths are taken and the ceremony is over, journalists shuffle around the tight space on the floor of the main room and try to catch a word with the prime minister and members of the Cabinet. Everyone is packed in tightly. It is easy, on these occasions, for someone with evil intent, masquerading as a journalist, to seriously injure or, God forbid, kill one or a few of our leaders. If that imposter manages to detonate an explosive, this country would have a serious leadership vacuum.

My intention is not to make life hard for those working in the vocation in which I still make my bread. It's simply to draw attention to the fact that the world of today is peopled by cunning, wicked persons who will stop at nothing to hurt Jamaica and friends of Jamaica.

The terrorists of today are the ones prepared to die for their cause. It should not take a crazed, knife-wielding person, especially one posing as a member of the Fourth Estate, to attack a minister at the weekly post-Cabinet briefings, for us to take steps to ensure that efforts are made to protect those who serve us.

Journalists are fair. I am sure my colleagues will not mind cooperating with real security as they do their jobs on behalf of the people.

Selah.

- George Davis is executive producer and host of SportsMax Zone. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.