Mon | Sep 25, 2017

T&T minister searched at Kingston airport by airline security, not J'can immigration officers

Published:Sunday | June 4, 2017 | 6:35 PM
Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has rejected claims that Jamaican immigration, customs or security personnel searched a Trinidadian Minister of Government at the Norman Manley International Airport on Friday.


According to the ministry, the search was undertaken by private security officers.

The Ministry was responding to media reports of an incident in which Ayanna Webster-Roy, Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago was searched, immediately before boarding an international flight on Friday. 

The reports allege that the search was conducted by Jamaican immigration authorities although they were aware of the minister’s official status.

But Jamaica's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson Smith has rejected the claim.

“Our initial enquiries indicate that a search took place, but that it was conducted by a private security company retained by the international airline on which the Minister and her delegation were travelling, Johnson-Smith said.

"Furthermore, we are advised that such searches are generally undertaken by the airline under international conventions, and are based on random computer selection for additional security screening.”
  
Johnson-Smith said while the minister’s distress is regretted enquiries so far reveal that diplomats and ministers of other countries, as well as current and former ministers of Jamaica, across political administrations, have in fact undergone this additional screening process, notwithstanding their status.

“The Government is, however, taking the matter seriously.  Even as we await a promised formal letter from my counterpart in Trinidad and Tobago, we are making further enquiries regarding the legal framework supporting such searches, as well as the specific circumstances of Friday’s incident.  We will write to the airline to make a formal request in this regard,” she said.

Johnson Smith said the Jamaican Government wants all visitors, including dignitaries from foreign and CARICOM countries, to be comfortable in their travel to and from Jamaica, notwithstanding any security protocols. 

She also stated that it was important to highlight that even at this stage of enquiries, it was quite clear that the search was in no way related to the issue of free movement under the CSME, nor was it related to the minister’s nationality.

Johnson Smith said she has informally asked, through the Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, that her empathy be conveyed to Webster-Roy, for any distress caused by the airline’s security screening process.