Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Holness looks to Israel - PM says cooperating with other countries part of national security plan

Published:Thursday | September 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/Parliamentary Reporter
Holness

Jamaica's Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, has signalled that his administration is open to establishing a framework for cooperation with Israel on national security issues such as cybersecurity.

But amid reports of a rift between Jamaica and the United States (US) over the terms of a proposed revised intelligence-sharing memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two countries, Holness has sought to make it clear that the Government was not turning its back on existing cooperation frameworks with traditional partners, the US, the United Kingdom (UK), and Canada.

"It doesn't mean, therefore, that there is any change of shift in the cooperation between our traditional partners. That's not the case. The fact is that we have intensified our cooperation with our traditional partners," Holness said.

He was speaking in the House of Representatives yesterday as lawmakers voted to extend the state of public emergency in the St Catherine North Police Division. The anti-crime measure, which was set to expire on October 2, will now remain in place until January 2 next year.

Holness cited an article published by The Gleaner on Monday about a reported stalemate between Jamaica and the US over the revised MOU. According to the report, the Americans are concerned about the increasingly warm relationship between Jamaica and Israel amid allegations that the Israelis are in the island looking to provide guidance to improve the intelligence-gathering capabilities of Jamaica's security forces.

 

ALWAYS LOOKING FOR NEW AVENUES

 

But the prime minister explained that his administration, as part of its overarching national security plan, was "always looking for new avenues of cooperation. And we are pursuing that with our traditional partners. But there are new partners as well. There are other countries that we seek to cooperate with," he said.

As an example, Holness said that Jamaica has sent delegations to Colombia "to see what they are doing with their policing".

"One of the leading nations in the world in cybersecurity is Israel. So I want to be absolutely clear that we are cooperating with any country around the world to build our capacity in all kinds of areas, which when put together, forms part of the plan to secure Jamaica," he insisted.

However, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, in his response, said that the nation and the parliamentary Opposition needed to know what the issues are between Jamaica and the US and be assured on a number of critical points.

"We need to be assured that anybody else with whom we are cooperating has the same levels of protection, has the same protections in their own legislation and the same orientation for the protection of people's rights," Phillips posited.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com