JIS News

Minister of National Security, Dr. Peter Phillips, has said that by early 2004, new border control technology would be put in place at the airports and seaports, to track persons who entered and exited the country, as well as to ward off unwelcome visitors.
In addition, he said, the Government was in the process of installing additional x-ray machines at the ports of entry to enhance the detection of illegal drugs and guns and other contraband.
Dr. Phillips made the announcement at the graduation ceremony for line officers of the Jamaica Customs Department on Wednesday (Oct. 22) at the Ministry of Finance and Planning’s National Heroes Circle office. He said that Jamaica, because of its geographical location, was a prime transshipment point for drugs – mainly cocaine – from countries in South America to destinations in North America. Estimates are that approximately 20 percent of the drugs produced by these countries pass through Jamaica, bringing illegal guns and other contraband. So lucrative is the drug trade that the street value of cocaine passing through Jamaica’s borders is said to exceed the value of the main revenue earning sectors of bauxite and tourism.
It is the profitability of the drug trade that lies at the heart of Jamaica’s crime problem, Dr. Phillips believes, noting that it has spurred the increase in gun violence with persons using high powered weapons such as M16s and AK47s, which cost in excess of $100,000 on the black market.
He noted that while the government had been putting measures in place to reduce the cross border criminal activity, including utilizing detection technology, building intelligence capabilities and international collaborations, and implementing legislation to take the profit out of crime, custom officers as well as other immigration personnel, had an important role to play in protecting the country’s borders. “Your primary tasks as customs officers is 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 stated.
A total of 62 line officers from the Customs Department offices in Kingston and Montego Bay participated in the three-month training programme, which is designed to enhance the competency of officers to better protect the country’s borders and to assess and collect revenue. Courses done included invoicing, cargo processing, valuation, tariff calculation and classification, warehousing and in-bond operations.
The training was held as part of the Department’s modernization process, which involves a greater thrust towards national security through the upgrading of surveillance equipment, intensified training, the introduction of new legislation and the amendment of existing laws, as well as enhancing international collaborations.
Dr. Phillips charged the graduates to stand tall and display integrity in carrying out their duties. “The future of Jamaica.is in your hands and it is between yourself, your conscience and your God, whether you serve Jamaica and its future or you yield to inducements.”
Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Senator Deika Morrison, also urged the custom officers to draw on inner values of transparency and fairness in carrying out their jobs. “Being a customs officer is no easy task,” she said, warning them to always be cognizant of the environment in which they operated.
In her remarks, Commissioner of Customs, Allison Moore, implored graduates to remember that their successes would be measured by how well they helped to achieve the mandate of the organization. She encouraged them to exercise fairness and diligence in collecting revenues and in protecting the country’s borders.
Director General of Tax Administration, Clive Nicholas, said that given the very rigorous programmes of selection, recruitment, interviews and written and psychometric testing, the graduates were in a position to do their job well.
He warned the customs officers that greater demands would be made of them given changes in World Trade Organization rules and the imminence of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas. “The customs of today is different from the customs of yesterday.these things are going to change the way customs operate.you have to change with the times,” he told them.
The Customs Department is responsible for the collection of customs duties in addition to issuing licenses to in-bond operators, enforcing all customs laws and regulations, providing surveillance over vessels entering and leaving the island to prevent smuggling, inspecting factories to ensure compliance with physical and accounting controls and encouraging voluntary compliance with customs laws in an effort to maximize revenue collections.

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