Wed | Dec 1, 2021

Government going all out to stem importation of illegal weapons – Chang

Published:Wednesday | April 14, 2021 | 5:39 AM
CHANG
CHANG

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has assured members of the United States-based diaspora that the Government is going all out to stem the illegal trafficking of guns and ammunition into the country.

Addressing some 2,000 members of the diaspora in North America at the second in the series of ‘Lets Connect with Ambassador Marks’, an online town hall meeting held last Thursday, Chang explained that the Government is now looking at a more robust legislative framework to deal with crime.

“We don’t make guns in Jamaica. Most of the guns coming in are from the United States, and we are getting much more cooperation from the United States authorities in dealing with the illegal trading of firearms,” Chang told his audience.

He said, “Although some come in through the United States, others come in through Central America and Haiti and they are exchanged for drugs. What we have done so far is very costly, but we have retooled the entire Coast Guard, creating a marine, air and cyber security division called the MACS Brigade, commanded by a senior female officer, Commodore Antonette Wemyss-Gorman.

“We have acquired three ocean-going vessels, and a marine patrol aircraft which have been very effective in intercepting the boats at sea, and stemming the guns-for-drugs trade,” Chang said.

He advised that the Government will be implementing a more robust legislative framework to punish those who engage in the illicit gun trade, as 80 per cent of the homicides are committed from firearms.

The national security minister pointed out that “we are in the process of having a new Firearms Act, which will increase penalties for not only illegal possession and use of firearms, but also trading and manufacturing. We are looking at a number of other pieces of legislation so we can have a more robust legislative framework in dealing with crime,” he said.

GUN CULTURE

He noted that another area in which the Government is embarking was to engage the youth who are considered ‘at risk’, by keeping them in school and giving them a skill, which is crucial in the effort to curtail and deter gun culture.

The security minister committed to giving a regular briefing to members of the diaspora, as he felt it was important for Jamaicans overseas to be kept informed about the progress the Government was making as it relates to national security.

Dr Chang urged overseas Jamaicans with security skills who want to make a contribution to the national crime-fighting effort to get in touch with the Police High Command through the Jamaican Embassy, which will make the appropriate arrangements.

He acknowledged that while the police have highly skilled and capable officers, the Government could not do it alone, emphasising that national security is a specialised and highly sensitive area which has to be approached with caution. However, he noted that he is open to explore roles for diaspora expertise.