Mon | Jan 21, 2019

EDITORIAL | Border protection must be a priority

Published:Saturday | December 30, 2017 | 12:46 AM


We began 2017 with a glimmer of hope that through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding there would have been heavy policing of most of the 145 illegally established ports of entry to the island. The MOU gave impressive details of planned coastal surveillance and intelligence gathering particularly on the southern border and sections of the north-eastern coast.

We end 2017 without proof that the Government has succeeded in meeting those priorities and we therefore feel compelled to call on the Government to make border protection a priority in 2018.

From the time that explorers took to the sea to discover what was beyond their own borders, ports have been hotbeds of smuggling activities, particularly drugs, guns and ammunition and humans beings. 

A Government’s most basic task is to provide security for its people. Jamaican individuals and companies are all hoping that for 2018 the Government will find new strategies to turn back the tide of violence that is sweeping across the island. Guns figure in more than 80 per cent of the crimes committed in Jamaica. Guns are not manufactured in Jamaica, so detecting and ebbing the flow of guns into the country ought to be a security priority.

Criminals are using violence to exploit the security lapses that have existed in this country over many years. And now they have become so emboldened that law-abiding citizens appear to be on the retreat as they cower on hearing daily reports of persons being cut down by bullets.

More muscles, new initiatives and greater resolve must all be employed to reverse the threats to the country’s national security by a few criminals who are growing more brazen by the day.

The seemingly narrow focus on processing crime scenes misses the larger point which demands there be urgent efforts to protect our borders to staunch the flourishing arms trade; that rapid response be given to citizens’ calls and that we seek international cooperation from our partners.

If there is to be any hope for a long-term solution then a comprehensive crime plan must encompass all of the above. Indeed, there are various crime plans which have been crafted for the Jamaica Constabulary Force which may require some simple tweaking before implementation.

Criminals and opportunity seekers take advantage of porous borders and informal economies to establish their illicit businesses. Concerns about gun imports came to the fore in November when it was discovered that a cache of more than 100 weapons destined for Montego Bay was seized at Miami International Airport. As the debate intensified about the illicit shipment, many wondered how many of these deadly weapons had previously escaped detection.

And only recently, the authorities again confirmed the vulnerability of our borders with the announcement that there is now a lucrative gun-for-motorbike trade between Jamaican and Haiti and before that it was gun-for-drugs. Jamaica must move swiftly to confront the assortment of threats lurking at its border, recognising that both internal and external forces are at work.

National security minister Robert Montague has said Jamaica stands to learn some lessons from Colombia where he attended sessions discussing the challenges states face to establish legitimacy and trust in the implementation of citizen security public policies. We hope the Jamaican delegation also learned something about border protection from its Latin American and Caribbean counterparts in attendance.