JIS News

The government has stepped up its efforts to counter the threat posed to the country by the international drug trade, by increasing security measures at the ports of entry.
Minister of National Security, Dr. Peter Phillips, pointing to the challenges faced by security officials, said that the street value of cocaine that passed through Jamaica’s borders, exceeded the value of the country’s bauxite and tourism earnings.
“Approximately 20 per cent of the drugs trafficked by countries in South America destined for markets in the north pass through Jamaica,” Dr. Phillips revealed, adding that the profits generated from this trade financed the purchasing of guns. He said there was a direct link between the kinds of contraband traded and the violence being perpetuated on the Jamaican community.
He was speaking at a graduation ceremony for customs line officers at the Ministry of Finance building, Heroes Circle in Kingston.
Sixty-two officers recently completed the intensive three-month training course and evaluation process, aimed at equipping them to deal with all aspects of customs. The programme is also designed to protect Jamaican citizens from external threats and to assess and collect revenue on behalf of the government. Courses done included, invoicing, cargo processing, valuation, tariff calculation and classification, warehousing and in-bond shop.
Continuing, Minister Phillips said, “it is important for you to understand, that this unholy triune of guns, drugs and money are all part of a cross border set of criminal activities, the drugs, by and large do not originate here, they pass across our borders, money generated by this trade often comes from other jurisdictions, into our own and moves on.” He said the primary task of the customs officers was not just to collect revenue, but also to protect the country’s borders against such activities.
Discussing some of the measures introduced to stem the flow of illegal drugs and guns, Dr. Phillips mentioned the acquisition of more modern x-ray and surveillance equipment at the ports of entry; the Ion Scan equipment at the airports, that has helped to detect drug couriers; increased mobility of the police and army; international partnerships with the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada to improve the capabilities of the security personnel and the introduction of new legislation, as well as the amendment of existing laws.
The National Security Minister said that the Port Security Act, which had already been introduced with the aim of setting and maintaining security standards for all public and private ports, would enable government authorities to have control over the security standards at all ports, as well as determine who had the right to use the port. A main feature of the Act will be the setting up of a Security Agency responsible for monitoring the execution of security standards at each of the ports as well as gather data where port related threats to national security are concerned. Furthermore the agency will have the powers to conduct employment investigations on all employees with access to the ports and impose restrictions for security sensitive positions.
Dr. Phillips noted that while Customs was regarded traditionally as a revenue agency, it was imperative that customs officers regarded themselves as part of the law enforcement apparatus of the country, although not part of the Ministry of National Security.
“You represent a critical component of the capacity of the country to protect itself from imminent threat. Your primary tasks as customs officers are the protection of our borders, it is not simply a task of collecting money you represent the frontline of the defences of our nation against criminality and all that it entails,” he reinforced. However, he noted, the task was not solely that of the custom officers but a concentrated effort between agencies such as, the Airports Authority, the Port Authority and its security staff, the police as well as immigration officers.

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