Tue | Apr 24, 2018

Garth Rattray | Find those moles at our ports

Published:Monday | January 8, 2018 | 12:13 AMGarth Rattray

Not long ago, I shipped two flat-screen televisions from New York to Kingston. One was sent as unaccompanied luggage and the other was shipped to the port. The experience at the airport wasn’t too bad, but it entailed very detailed examinations of the papers and the TV. The amount of paperwork was shocking and the number of hands that the documents had to pass through was astounding.

It was an experience filled with waiting and paying and waiting and waiting and waiting on several persons to check, double-check, triple-check and quadruple-check before the TV was finally released and I was allowed to leave with it.

But my experience on the wharves was a real eye-opener and very fatiguing. Entering the area around the Kingston Wharves made me feel as if I had entered a new realm, an alternate universe. I was flagged down by a fellow, a hustler who could clearly see the bewildered look on my face from a mile away, but then, perhaps my slow and tentative driving betrayed me. He eventually assisted me to find the various places that I needed to go…for a price, of course.

Long story short – as I recall, I went to the shipping company and, after a lot of scrutinising, my documents were dismantled, stamped and a fee was charged. I paid, then I met the fellow downstairs and he led me to a secure gate through which only those with documents could pass. More document inspection, more strange areas to enter. I ended up queueing in three separate lines and going through perhaps five security check points where my documents were inspected. And, there were about four places where the documents had to be checked and stamped.

Eventually, I was allowed to go through a turnstile and into the promised land. Now my life was in danger from huge trucks driving back and forth. The faded pedestrian crossing provided a false sense of security because, no matter how obvious I planted my size thirteens on the zebra lines, no vehicle even preckeh pon mi.

Tight security

“Into the pearly gates,” I thought as I entered another virgin territory. The very meticulous document scrutiny made me fret. “What if a single letter or number or comma or full stop were out of place? I actually felt a little faint at the prospect of doing this all over again. “No TV is worth this hassle,” I mused, but then again, this one was a gift from my little sister and I could not abandon it in the Customs warehouse.

From one place to another where the TV finally appeared as if by magic. The box was opened and the contents inspected more thoroughly than cops tossing a house for evidence. Every single marking on the TV was checked repeatedly, and finally, it was released. One more payment, more security guards, more stamping of documents. I got the thing and joined another line where more documents and the box were checked again before exiting the compound.

Having experienced the tight security and attention to details carried out at our ports of entry, when I saw that, on November 13, 2017, two barrels bound for Montego Bay, labelled 'Personal Effects', were found to contain four assault rifles, 115 pistols and 267 assorted rounds of ammunition when intercepted in Miami, it’s obvious to me that there must have been a lot of inside collusion. Nobody is going to ship that amount of very expensive contraband and leave it to luck.

Given the high level of security and detailed examination of goods coming through our various official ports of entry, solid arrangements must have been in place to usher through that shipment. Obviously, security personnel from both airports and Jamaica Customs employees were paid off, ready and waiting to play their part. And, there is a very high probability that they have had past successes in smuggling contraband.

Thank God for the vigilance of the outbound enforcement team at the Miami International Airport; they saved hundreds of Jamaican lives.  The authorities are very actively going after those unconscionable, treacherous, craven moles and I wish them every success. People need to go to prison for this for the sake of justice and to deter such future efforts.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.