Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Editorial | Mr Bartlett’s uncalled-for twist

Published:Wednesday | May 31, 2017 | 5:00 AM

Ed Bartlett, the tourism minister, seems to have got himself in a bit of a twist over the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) standard advisory on terrorism to British citizens travelling to Jamaica. He can find better reasons and places on which to expend his energy.

The note acknowledges that there is "no recent history of terrorism in Jamaica", but advises Britons that the danger can't be ruled out in the face of "a heightened threat of terrorist attacks globally against UK interests and British nationals".

Such anxieties, we expect, would have been heightened by last week's deadly bombing in Manchester, England, which followed the recent attack in the vicinity of the British Parliament when a knife-wielding terrorist not only killed a policeman, but had earlier used a car as a weapon against civilians.

Significantly, the terrorism advisory on Jamaica is in the very same language as for those for most other English-speaking Caribbean countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, as well as Barbados, which is the most popular destination for British tourists in this region. There is a slight variation in the phraseology and tone in the one for Guyana - on the South American mainland and not a significant tourism destination - where the FCO says there is a "low threat from terrorism", but tells UK citizens to be "aware of the global risk of indiscriminate attacks", especially in public areas frequented by expatriates.

Unlike most other Caribbean countries that have, at best, contributed a handful of their citizens to global terrorism, more than 100 Trinidadians are known to have gone to Syria to fight for the outfit that calls itself Islamic State - a fact that it is represented in the British advisory for Trinidad and Tobago. "Terrorists are likely to carry out attacks in Trinidad and Tobago ... ," it says.

People from all countries, including Jamaica, should, we believe, be wary of terrorism wherever and whenever they travel.

Minister Bartlett, however, believes that the Brits are being unfair to this country for, as he puts it, without specifics, telling their citizens "to watch it when they come to Jamaica". So, he plans to have a talk with the British high commissioner in Kingston, although it is not clear whether he intends to have David Fitton formally called in by the foreign ministry.

 

DEVELOP STRATEGIES

 

A better use of Mr Bartlett's time, apart from pursuing the fundamentals of his portfolio, would be working with his Cabinet colleague, Robert Montague, and Jamaica's international partners, to develop strategies to lessen the likelihood of terrorist attacks in Jamaica, especially against any tourism interests.

Indeed, a week ago, in the wake of the Manchester bombing, this newspaper urged a far more urgent and encompassing approach to the threat of terrorism on the part of the Jamaican authorities. The issue is addressed in Mr Montague's Five-Pillar Strategy on crime and security, recently tabled in Parliament. But the terror concern, we feel, was overly focused on narco-terrorists seeking to upend Jamaica's political institutions and not sufficiently on the religion-ideological ones, seeking soft targets in countries and a region perceived as sympathetic to the West. We are concerned, too, at the low probability rating Jamaica has, up to now, attached to terror attacks.

Jamaica's approach to the issue may not need to be exactly febrile, but we expect our officials to be quite exercised by it.