Wed | Nov 22, 2017

Jamaica still has Britain's backing in fight against terrorism

Published:Wednesday | September 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke
British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad.

Jamaica continues to have the powerful backing of Britain in the fight against international terrorism, said newly appointed High Commissioner Asif Ahmad, while talking up the United Kingdom's (UK) support for local law enforcement.

Ahmad said that Jamaica's vulnerability could rest largely on the fact that it depends heavily on tourism, which he fears could be exploited.

"First, Jamaica could become a very good meeting place (for terrorists). Nobody is watching you in Montego Bay. You are on holidays here, so who cares?" he said hypothetically.

"It's not unusual if you saw people from the Middle East or West Africa here. So if people are not alert, they'll think these people are on holiday. However, the cooperation on security matters that exists between the UK and Jamaica is strong and has proven valuable over time."

In addition, Ahmad, a banker-turned diplomat, who last served as the UK high commissioner to the Philippines, reasoned that he was sure that protocols exist that would protect the local banking system from being used by terrorists.

He said that after the September 11, 2001 terror attack in the United States, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations took measures that put a leash on the easy movement of cash.

"There is no evidence to show that Jamaican banks are the go-to place when you want to transact, but the whole measure that the United Nation and the EU took after 9/11 really put a grip on the movement of cash and funds, which tightened up the ways money move from A to B," Ahmad shared with The Gleaner.

 

RADICALISATION CAN HAPPEN ANYWHERE

 

"When I talked to the central bank here and with other bankers as I go along, I'm pretty certain that I'll get the reassurances that the protocols that we observe are [also] observed here," he stated.

Alluding to the recent detention of Jamaican cleric Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal on an extradition warrant, as a case in point, Ahmad said that work being done by local law enforcement and credible intelligence shared through cooperation with the British and the Americans are not to be understated.

"In terms of the prospects of Jamaican nationals becoming radicalised at home, this can happen over the Internet, as much as anything else, and who's to say someone disgruntled, who has a grudge against whoever, finds some alignment with the terrorist messaging there? What we are seeing in the UK now and elsewhere in the world is low-tech terrorism, with high impact," said the British high commissioner.

"I'm actually certain that people here in the security sector are alert that radicalisation can happen in prison and in deprived communities also."

Ahmad noted that the UK's support of Jamaican efforts in staving off terrorism is in keeping with the threat levels, adding that he has seen evidence that suggested that the Jamaican security apparatus has the potential to manage an attack on a low scale, but will need assistance from international partners to tackle much larger threats.

"I'm pretty confident that we have the connections, the architecture and protocols in place should an incident arise, and that we should be in a position to work together. And don't forget the benefit of having the US here. That is huge, because they are our global partners. Having their presence here for us is a huge asset," Ahmad said.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com