Tue | May 22, 2018

Allan Douglas | Jamaica incubator for foreign terrorists

Published:Tuesday | February 13, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Recently, I read an article in The Guardian newspaper titled 'Trinidad's jihadis: how tiny nation became ISIS recruiting ground'. The article reported that more than 100 of Trinidad's citizens have left to join the Islamic State (ISIS), "including 70 men who planned to fight and die".

Should we in Jamaica be concerned about this situation in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, which is 1,915km away from our country? Although Trinidad's citizens can travel through the Caribbean without visas, what truly would induce a member of ISIS to carry out terrorist activities in Jamaica?

The salient point here is that corruption and crime are so rife in this country, that it offers an ideal environment in which terrorist activities could thrive. Crime in Jamaica has become more organised, and our police say that the security forces are finding it difficult to penetrate or dismantle the 250-plus criminal gangs that occupy our island.

In 2016, over a two-month period, I had the opportunity to interview more than 200 Jamaicans from western Jamaica. This experience provided one of the most shocking revelations of my life regarding values I, as a Jamaican, naively believed we still held dear. One of the revelations was in respect of social values. The majority strongly believed social status is defined solely by wealth, and the overwhelming majority had no regard for the source of the wealth!

When one throws into the mix the illicit drug trade, which is stronger than ever and which, in many respects, nurtures violence and lawlessness, do we not provide very fertile ground on which terrorist activities can flourish?

The environment is inviting for terrorist activities from our Caribbean cousins, Trinidad and Tobago. But what would be the gain? I believe our country's proximity to the USA makes us an ideal training ground and a possible base from which ISIS could launch its attacks. We should also be mindful of the fact that possibly more than 80 per cent of those who use our airports are foreign nationals.

 

Are we prepared?

 

With all this in mind, are we in Jamaica truly prepared to deal with or prevent terrorist activities from Trinidad's jihadis.

Let's hope our crime strategies extend beyond combating local crime, violence, and the illicit drug trade. Let us also focus on developing a well-conceived anti-terrorist strategy that will include our Caribbean neighbours.

If there is anything that certainly threatens to bring about the total collapse of the rule of law in Jamaica and turn us into a failed state, it would be our failure to deal with the terrorism threat, especially that emanating from Trinidad.

- Allan Douglas is a retired colonel of the Jamaica Defence Force. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.