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US Ambassador gives Ja security thumbs up, urges nation to reject 'reprehensible' comments

Published:Thursday | November 19, 2015 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
United States Ambassador to Jamaica Luis G. Moreno

Jamaica's law-enforcement apparatus has received a strong vote of confidence from the top American diplomat on the island.

At the same time, United States Ambassador Luis G. Moreno slammed a controversial local Muslim cleric for what he described as reprehensible statements about last Friday's deadly terrorist attacks in France.

While acknowledging that terrorists could strike anywhere in the world at any time, Moreno made it clear he was satisfied with the level of cooperation that exists between American and Jamaican law-enforcement agencies.

"We felt it safe enough to bring the president of the United States here," Moreno said yesterday in reference to Barack Obama's visit to the island in April.

"The president of the United States personally commented on how safe he felt and the professionalism of the [Jamaican] security forces," he added during an interview with The Gleaner.

"You never can do enough, because we have seen the capabilities of people who are determined to strike against humanity, but at the same time, we are very satisfied with our relationship, we are very satisfied with the state of play, with cooperation and with the sharing of information," Moreno continued.

At least 129 persons were killed and 350 others injured after terrorists detonated explosives and opened fire with high-powered weapons in a series of coordinated attacks on bars, restaurants and outside a soccer match in the French capital.




Moreno predicted that a similar attack on Jamaican soil would be "enormously tragic", but made it clear that Jamaica has a friend in the US.

"Do I feel that we have the relationships to cope with anything like this? I think we do, and we would be very supportive of Jamaica and the Caribbean basin," he declared.

However, in the days after the attacks, Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal, the Jamaican cleric convicted in the United Kingdom for inciting violence against several religious groups and deported in 2007, insisted he would not condemn them. Al-Faisal also made disturbing comments about the prospects for future attacks in another country.

Without naming the controversial cleric, Moreno urged Jamaicans to "reject this kind of rhetoric that is violent, irresponsible and lacking in common decency".

"I find that the height of irresponsibility and really reprehensible. It flies in the face of common decency and [is] certainly [an] abject ... kind of responsibility as a so-called religious leader, and I'm astounded that someone could make these statements," he said.

While noting that the US is a big proponent of freedom of speech, the American diplomat cautioned that there are levels of responsibility, maturity and awareness that should be observed, and warned that such statements could result in more violence.