Brenda LaGrange Johnson
United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Brenda LaGrange Johnson, says she is concerned about the implications for the island's border security with the flourishing guns-for-drugs trade between Jamaica and Haiti.
Speaking with The Gleaner following the handover of a refurbished 40-foot patrol vessel to the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coastguard Wednesday, Mrs. LaGrange Johnson said, "It is a concern to all of us and I think that many people are concerned about it and are very concerned about a stable government in Haiti."
In recent months local police have expressed concern that the growing guns-for-drugs trade between the two countries was contributing to a large circulation of illegal guns here. Recently, the police recovered a gun which was identified to be the type carried by the Haitian police. Four persons - including two Haitian nationals - suspected to be a part of the illicit trade were arrested earlier this week .
However, Ambassador LaGrange Johnson said her government was committed to providing the JDF Coastguard with more resources to help in border security and combat drug trafficking. "I have to talk to the Admiral (Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin) see what he needs ... we have given these two ships, but I am sure there are more things coming to ensure safety especially with Cricket World Cup arriving," she said. The U.S. Ambassador said her government has committed an additional US$384,600 (J$25.8 million) to assist in equipping the JDF this year.
Ambassador LaGrange Johnson handed over the keys to a refurbished Sea Ark Dauntless class vessel to the Rear Admiral Lewin at the HMJS Cagway, the coastguard headquarters, in Port Royal, Wednesday. This is the second patrol vessel donated by the U.S. to the JDF in a year. Both vessels are valued at US$670,000 (J$44.8 million).
"We anticipate that the Government of Jamaica will enable maximum use of these vessels by providing the coastguard with sufficient operational resources to meet future challenges," she noted.
Rear Admiral Lewin said the vessel will greatly assist the JDF in patrolling the island's shores.
In the meantime, the military continues to benefit from the cooperation between both countries through training programmes. There are currently 31 members of the JDF engaged in training in the U.S.