EDITORIAL - Targeting the Chinese
Something positive may yet be salvaged from that ghastly incident last week in St Catherine in which four men transporting the pay bill for workers building the North-South highway were ambushed and shot dead. It seems that, at last, the authorities are taking security on the site seriously.
First, though, there are serious questions to be asked and answered in the investigation of this crime, including how the highway's developer, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), managed the movement of money, and if and how this information may have been exploited in a criminal conspiracy.
Of course, we are surprised by the seeming casualness with which this movement of money was handled. An estimated J$2 million, a relatively large amount of money in this context, was being transported in a regular car, under the control of apparently regular, unarmed employees, who appeared to have neither experience nor training in security. Or, they seemed not have responded in a fashion that suggested that they did.
If that was indeed the case, it was an error that CHEC has suggested will not happen again. At least on a prima facie basis, it would appear that gangsters had prior information that the vehicle with the cash would have passed the district of Bowers Wood at the time that it did and that it would be transporting the money. How did they know? That, we expect, is something the police will want to find out.
On the larger issue, it is good that this incident is concentrating minds on the security of the project. The police chief, Dr Carl Williams, it has been announced, has assigned a senior officer to oversee security on the project route.
That has taken too long to happen.
It has been an open secret for a long time that Chinese workers on the highway, and others, have been targeted for robberies and other crimes against the person. These are not the only ones. Chinese, on a government-to-government project, building a Chinese garden at Hope Gardens were held up and robbed shortly after they started. Other Chinese have been the subjects of attacks. It would seem that they are being targeted. Fortunately, none of them has been killed.
Quite unfortunately, it has taken the deaths of four Jamaicans to focus attention to this issue and perhaps its broader implications.
We appreciate that there can be no security for foreigners in Jamaica in an environment of general insecurity. All of us have to be safe, which, ultimately, will be the result of a range of government policies, including, but not limited to, the effective management of national security resources. Other social and economic forces, including job-creating economic growth, are also at play in this matter.
Part of this project is to ensure that people who come to Jamaica to invest in the kinds of projects that will stimulate growth are not subject to systematic exploitation and the compromising of their security, which is likely to be the view of CHEC and other Chinese companies undertaking major projects here. It is unfortunate that there are not too many of these kinds of investors, but for Chinese firms. CHEC, for instance, is investing more than US$650 million in the North-South highway, which will provide a modern, fast link between Jamaica's two major economic regions. They also plan to spend more than US$1.5 billion on port and logistic facilities. We would not wish to see them go.
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