Cops to beef up security for CHEC sites
In the wake of the murder of four men transporting a large sum of cash for the payment of salaries, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) has been assured of round-the-clock, high-level security for the massive road-construction programme it is currently undertaking in St Catherine.
A senior law-enforcement officer is to be assigned to head a high-security team by Police Commissioner Dr Karl Williams, who was in attendance at a top-level meeting yesterday involving CHEC representatives, government officials, and a throng of senior police personnel.
Among several decisions made during the meeting at CHEC's offices in Giblatore, Bog Walk, St Catherine, were that the company would put an end to the distribution of large sums of cash on its sites.
Such transactions have served as a lure to hoodlums. On Sunday, four men transporting salaries were ambushed and murdered in the district of Bowers Wood. The four victims were robbed of approximately $2 million in cash for salaries, a large quantity of which was recovered yesterday.
Investigators are reportedly probing whether the killings were connected to extortion.
"When it comes to hiring labour, we are going to review the system because some suggestions were made to us by the commissioner and we are certainly going to look at those as a way forward," said Jennifer Armond, CHEC's communications manager.
Added Armond: "This meeting was a little bit overdue because we needed to discuss security issues … . We have been struggling with crime elements along this highway route for some time now."
She conceded that CHEC also realised that there were some measures the company needed to put in place from its end, "but we are pleased that the Jamaica Constabulary Force has agreed to increase its presence on our site".
OPEN AND FRANK TALKS
Transport and Works Minister Dr Omar Davies, accompanied by his state minister, Richard Azan, declined to comment on the likely motive for the attack, but divulged that the discussions in the meeting were open and frank.
"The commissioner is going to put in place a senior officer at the level of deputy superintendent, who will be in charge of a beefed-up presence with more personnel and vehicles," Davies said.
"We had a frank discussion about some of the methods being utilised by CHEC, in terms of utilising their security and methods of payments," he added.
While welcoming CHEC's decision to discontinue cash payments to its staff, Natalie Neita-Headley, the member of parliament for North Central St Catherine, in which the North-South link of Highway 2000 project is currently being undertaken, told The Gleaner that other troubling issues concerning workers needed to be addressed.
"I believe that my request to have the payment method changed from cash to persons receiving their pay through their own bank accounts was received well," said Neita-Headley.
"We have asked that it become mandatory for persons to be able to provide identification before they can be hired to, among other things, make banking facilities available to workers."
Neita-Headley said while it was not discussed during yesterday's meeting, the issue of classification of labour and payments warranted immediate attention.