PM: It would cost us more than $4 million when him soak us. Abu Bakr deportation was money well spent, Government insists
With Yasin Abu Bakr considered a threat to Jamaica's national security, Peter Bunting, who has ministerial responsibility for the portfolio, said in Parliament yesterday that the Government feared he could indoctrinate Jamaicans if he had been detained, having been denied entry to the island last week.
"We did not wish this individual to be in Horizon [Remand Centre] spending time attempting to radicalise persons there," Bunting said in the House of Representatives yesterday as he attempted to justify the $4-million price tag to return the Muslim leader to Trinidad and Tobago via a private jet.
The comment is one which Abu Bakr responded to immediately on local radio last night, declaring "shame" on the Jamaican Government for assuming its citizens could be radicalised in a matter of days.
Bunting said it was in the country's national security interests to have Abu Bakr leave as quickly as possible, but the parliamentary Opposition, though supporting the move not to grant him entry, said he should have been locked up at Horizon "until he decided he wants to go".
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in sotto voce comments, however, scoffed at the Opposition's position.
"It would cost us more than $4 million when him soak us," the prime minister said with a frown.
While conceding the sum was significant, Bunting said a terrorist event would have been dire.
"While the cost of Abu Bakr's removal by private charter was significant, it pales in comparison to what the attempted coup d'état cost Trinidad in 1990. It pales in comparison to what a terrorist incident would cost Jamaica today. And it pales in comparison to the billions of dollars that the mishandling of the Christopher Coke extradition cost this country in 2010," Bunting said.
The minister, in his statement to Parliament, read out Abu Bakr's rap sheet, which included co-organising the 1990 attempted coup in Trinidad and Tobago in which then Trinidad Prime Minister A.N.R. Robinson was shot and 24 others killed. Robinson and other parliamentarians were taken hostage during the attempted coup.
Bunting noted that a 2014 commission of enquiry report into the attempted coup described Abu Bakr, leader of the Jamaat al Muslimeen's group, as the "ruthless", "unrepented master-mind" of the failed coup. He said Abu Bakr presents a "genuine, present, and sufficient serious threat" to Jamaica's national security.
Derrick Smith, the opposition spokesman on national security, said Abu Bakr should have had a return ticket and hence there was no need to spend the "scandalous" amount.
"Keep him here until he decides that he wants to go. Feed him, offer medical care, and when he submits that he is ready to go, you send him back," Smith said.
Delroy Chuck, another opposition MP, questioned whether the Government could not have said to Abu Bakr, "You can return on your return ticket, but while you are here, you will be detained, as Jamaicans are detained in Trinidad, until you return on your ticket or you return and behave yourself in economy [class on a flight]".
Bunting said that under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, a Caricom national, if landed, has an automatic six-month stay in the country.
"The choice was, either we refuse to or land him, but having landed him, he would have had a right to remain for a period of six months, and during the period of that six months, there could have been all sorts of appeals tying up the matter. If we had him in custody, then it would have become a court matter, and most likely, he would have got bail and the risks that we want to protect ourselves against, we would have been exposed to them," the minister said.