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‘Unacceptable lawlessness’ - Attorney slams US for endangering marine life in blowing up vessel at sea

Published:Tuesday | December 29, 2020 | 12:13 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer

Attorney-at-law Bert Samuels has raised a red flag over what he describes as the scant regard shown for the Caribbean’s maritime ecosystem when the United States Coast Guard destroyed a Jamaican vessel, Lady Lawla, at sea on October 12.

Samuels, the defence lawyer for David Chin, owner of the carrier vessel, insists that its destruction was an illegal act.

Speaking during a press conference yesterday, he said that the circumstances under which the 92-foot vessel was destroyed breached Jamaica’s Maritime Drug Trafficking (Suppression) Act as well as the Shiprider Agreement between Jamaica and the United States.

“Jamaica must be concerned that within its economic zone in the Caribbean Sea, a boat has been destroyed, literally emptying thousands of gallons of fuel, waste and pollution into the sea, endangering maritime life,” he said.

“This is especially egregious in circumstances where the Maritime Drug Trafficking (Suppression) Act, our law which ratifies the Shiprider Agreement, mandates at Section 14, subsection 2, which states that ... law enforcement officials of the treaty state shall, when boarding and carrying out a search on a Jamaican vessel, take into account the need ... not to prejudice the commercial and legal interests of Jamaica or any other interested state”.

Added Samuels: “This ship’s cargo has now disappeared, blown up at sea by the big powerful United States. The boat had thousands of gallons of fuel in its 20,000 gallon-capacity tank. It had material which was, undoubtedly, a pollutant to our Caribbean Sea. This act of lawlessness is unacceptable. We hold the US accountable to our citizens to explain why the destruction of a vessel was necessary and we hold Jamaica accountable to its citizens as to why it granted permission to do so.”

Samuels said that he has written to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith, requesting her immediate attention given the urgency of the situation he described as a diplomatic crisis.

He also questioned the level of assistance, if any, that the US provides to the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard and whether this may compromise Jamaica’s ability as a sovereign nation to confront breaches of its treaties by its much more powerful partner.