Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Opposition MPs vote to approve Maritime Drug Trafficking Bill

Published:Tuesday | January 19, 2016 | 3:30 PM

Despite their colleagues in the Senate on Friday voting against the Maritime Drug Trafficking (Suppression) (Amendment) Bill, opposition MPs today agreed for the bill to be passed into law.

Last year, the House had passed the original bill without any rancour, but when it went before the Senate, members of both sides raised strong objections.

However, there was no disagreement over the amendments when they were brought to the House today.

The bill proposes to grant the Minister of National Security the power to waive Jamaica's right to exercise jurisdiction over its nationals who are detained on a Jamaican vessel by law enforcement authorities of a treaty State seaward of any State's territorial sea.

In voting against the Bill on Friday, Opposition Senators said it infringed on the rights of a Jamaican to be tried in his homeland.

Jamaica is a party to the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Under this Convention, State Parties are required to cooperate through bilateral or multilateral arrangements enhancing the effectiveness of suppressing illicit maritime trafficking in drugs, and to enact the necessary legislative and administrative measures to achieve same.

Jurisdiction is conferred to the territory which has flagged the vessel. But by treaty arrangements, there can be surrender of jurisdiction to the country whose law enforcement officers apprehended the vessels.

The national security minister currently has the power to waive jurisdiction over a Jamaican flagged vessel and its contents found on the high seas by agents of a treaty state — the United States and Britain — if he finds it to be transporting contraband such as illegal guns and drugs.

If there are Jamaicans aboard, they would be brought back here for trial but the bill is proposing that the signature or the national security minister be sufficient to decide whether he is sent to face justice in a foreign land.