Pubdate: Sun, 15 Aug 2004
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2004 The Gleaner Company Limited


The Chief of Staff of the Jamaica Defence Force, Rear Admiral Hardley 
Lewin, has reiterated the army's commitment to working with the police to 
stamp out the drug trade and to play its part in addressing other 
crime-fighting issues.

Excerpts of the interview conducted by Earl Moxam are published below.

EM: Chief of Staff, what's your own perception of the crime problem?

HL: I have to start with a disclaimer, in that the matter of dealing with 
crime and other issues associated with that are matters for the police.

We are here to assist the police.

I would like to look at the broader regional issues and how they might 
affect us rather than dealing with the domestic situation, on which I have 
some views, but would rather leave to the police who have primary 
responsibility in that area.

EM: But, to a certain extent the JDF has been drawn further into dealing 
with the domestic situation because of some of the constraints which the 
police face. Is this a situation that you are prepared for, and are you 
uncomfortable with the extent to which you have been called on to play that 

HL: Well, we've been playing that role for many years.

We're very clear that the police have primacy; we're there to assist the 
police and anything we have, any skills or expertise, which the police find 
useful in their crime-fighting efforts we will make available.

We know our limitations; we work within our legal and constitutional 
restraints, but we are here to help because we have to make this country 

EM: As far as your own resources are concerned, I know that there have been 
efforts to improve what is available to you, your mobility on land, air and 
sea. How would you describe the current situation in that respect?

HL: We have needs in just about every area of the force.

We are, however, on a programme of capacity-building. We can't build 
everything at the same time and at the same pace; we've had to prioritise. 
One thing that has never suffered very much is the human resource, and were 
also building those numbers.

I'm happy, certainly at the direction; it would be nice if we could pick up 
the pace, but the direction and the pace is quite acceptable and I'm happy 
with how we are moving.

The training and redirection is going according to plans, as far as I'm 

EM: Looking at the wider security context in which you operate; we are in a 
hemisphere that has its own problems with regional security, drug 
trafficking etc. Can you assess the extent of the challenges posed?

HL: When you look at where we are positioned, if you take the distance from 
Negril to Morant Point; two and a half times that distance takes you into 
Colombia. If you take that same distance, from Negril to Morant Point; 
one-and-a-half times that distance you're in Haiti. The difficulty in Haiti 
is that there are large areas that are not under the control of the state - 
lawless areas.

This poses a significant problem for us. When you look at other countries 
bordering the area you see the ease with which transnational issues can 
take place.

Couple all of what is taking place in the region with our local criminal 
enterprises and you will see that we have many criminal enterprises who 
would be willing allies of these external groups.

Underlying all of that of course is the threat of terrorism. And when you 
look at what is happening in Central and South America with certain 
terrorist groupings which are very active in some of those areas, there is 
a very serious link between the terrorist and the criminal enterprise; and 
the narco-trafficker. What the terrorist will seek to do is to create, not 
new routes and methodologies, but marriages of convenience with criminal 
enterprises and narco-traffickers. For the terrorist, what comes out of 
this marriage will be some political gain from the terrorist activity.

For the criminal enterprise it is some economic gain. So they find good 
reason to work together.

Underlying all of this of course will be the money that comes with it. Then 
you can see the kind of situation that potentially exists here in Jamaica 
and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

EM: Anecdotally, one hears of frequent exchanges along the coast, through 
all of these fishing villages between criminal elements in Haiti and their 
Jamaican counterparts. And it is now widely held that Haiti has become a 
major source of guns coming into Jamaica. How are we coping with that?

HL: There is no question that Haiti is the source of some of the guns. I 
can't quantify it; again it's a work in progress like many other things we 
have to be working on at the same time. We know that drugs, particularly 
ganja, is taken to Haiti in canoes and they return with guns. And I would 
believe that there are sufficient guns available when you have large areas 
of ungoverned space as you do in Haiti at the moment.

EM: How effective has the Shiprider Agreement been in tackling the 
smuggling problem?

HL: I believe this so-called Shiprider Agreement has been one of the most 
misunderstood and maligned arrangements we are involved with. Shipriding is 
only one of the four elements of this agreement; it is really a much 
broader maritime counter-drug co-operation agreement, and the shipriding 
part only covers the fact that Jamaican law enforcement can ride on board 
U.S. Government vessels.

It also covers aircraft assistance; it covers assistance to Jamaican flag 
vessels anywhere in the world on the high seas. To say how effective it is, 
is very difficult to judge; it is just one more tool in the law enforcer's 
toolbox; it was never a panacea to solve all the problems. The agreement 
has been working well because we exercise it from time to time. A lot of 
co-operation happens under the auspices of it that does not include 
shipriding because what were trying to do is to co-operate to the fullest 
extent so that we have the proper end game: apprehension of persons, 
recovery of vessels, drugs etc.

EM: Is the Jamaican state in danger of becoming a failed state, what with 
the prevalence of the drugs and the extent to which the narco-terrorists 
might be collaborating with others to achieve particular ends?

HL: I think we have to be very careful; and here we must take heed from 
activities in other countries.

Whatever signals and signs there are we must recognise them for what they 
are. And my disappointment is that I do not believe that we as yet see the 
potential of what could happen if we don't take the necessary action.

And when I say we, I don't mean just the law enforcers; I mean every single 

We have to be careful about the development of mini states within the 
Jamaican state; these areas where you get the impression that they have 
their own systems of justice, of dealing with things that Government should 

But we definitely are nowhere near being a failed state.

However, every single one of us must have a clear understanding of what the 
challenges are; we must have a clear understanding of the potential further 
on down the road if we don't take the necessary actions.

Law enforcement is only one component of a number of things that have to be 
dealt with.

EM: You have looked closely at the Colombian situation and we know that 
there are certain portions of the country which are essentially autonomous; 
controlled by either the narco-terrorists or rebel forces; and sometimes 
they converge.

Aren't there some similarities developing between the two counties Jamaica 
and Colombia?

HL: You have to look, first of all, at how the Colombian situation started. 
They started out with a certain problem of insurgents seeking political 
power. These are people who graduated later on to get into the business of 
drugs. I don't know that there is a much of a political agenda anymore in 
Colombia. In Jamaica I don't think we could be considered as being anywhere 
near the situation that is in Colombia; but, as I stated before, we have 
got to look at how things happen.

I've been doing a lot of reading about Colombia; studying this problem and 
you have to go back 50 years.

There are not a lot of similarities but we have to be mindful.

We have to study what happened there; look at what is happening here; and 
deal with the matter in a holistic manner.

And again I come to the point that it is not just a matter of law 
enforcement; there are also the other issues that people are concerned 
about, that have to be dealt with simultaneously.

EM: If one were to look at the situation in Spanish Town and the fact that 
there was so much concern about the prospect that the business community in 
particular was going to be forced to lock down operations because of the 
funeral of an alleged gang leader.

Doesn't that go straight to the heart of what you were saying; and do we 
not need therefore to address that situation in Spanish Town to avert what 
you are warning against?

HL: Absolutely! Now, serious addressing will take place when people realise 
that we all have a part to play in this effort; the business people, the 
arms of the state, just about every stakeholder. And until people realise 
that and start to make demands and don't give in. But again it all has to 
happen simultaneously because people, naturally, will look with concern to 
their own safety.

Regarding the funeral, the necessary security measures were in place.

 From what I saw in the news, there was resolve on the part of some 
business operators.

But then you have to be a realist because there are many employees who came 
from these areas from which some of these gangs operate and that presented 
a special challenge, and you couldn't keep your place open if there was 
concern for your staff.

And I don't think you're going to get that sort of resolve just overnight, 
when you've had a history of criminal gangs winning those little battles; 
until the people concerned take action for themselves I'm afraid we won't 
be getting very far. A number of things need to be happening at the same 
time because it's about much more than the state bringing violence to deal 
with violence.

EM: The danger of the security forces themselves, or of them being 
corrupted, how fearful are you of that?

HL: Well let me say this; corruption is a major, major problem.

And when I say that I'm not just thinking police, which is what people 
would obviously think. I don't rule it out of my own force.

There are many other arms of the state; people who have to collaborate. And 
let me just make one broad statement: No criminal enterprise of any sort 
can survive without corrupting several arms of the state; it cannot survive!

A frequently asked question is how come you can't get Mr. Big? The simple 
answer is that Mr. Big does not go close to his product, so you have a 
challenge there in the first instance.

The other part of the challenge is that, in order to get Mr. Big, who is 
far removed from his own activities, you have to be working around several 
arms of the state who are corrupted, and navigate around that in order to 
get Mr. Big, and so it compounds the problem.

The message I have though is that we are getting much better at what we do. 
But corruption is our biggest problem in dealing with many issues 
surrounding criminal activities.

EM: Does the JDF have the will or the capacity to do more as far as youth 
at risk are concerned?

Many people have called for a semi-military programme to deal with those 
youth who are at the point at which they may decide to join a gang or in 
other ways become a danger to themselves or the society.

HL: Right now we are very heavily involved in youth programmes of various 
kinds that we support.

We can only do as much as we are asked to do. So if we are asked to do more 
and we don't have the required capacity then we'd build that capacity.

I think the big problem that I face is who is going to fund it. It is the 
funding of it because we certainly cannot, but we certainly can play a more 
vigorous role in any kind of youth programme; whatever nature it takes, but 
it has to be sustained.

We have a number of things that we have participated in. There's a 
youth-at-risk programme, but it is a four-week programme and I think a 
third to a half dropped out early. But what we learnt was that just about 
the time when you were getting a little traction and turning them, the four 
weeks were up. So again it has to be something sustained and requires funding.

But we are only too happy to lend capacity or build capacity to assist; we 
have a role in all of that but it is not something we can take over.

EM: So if a more formalised, structured programme of longer duration were 
to be designed and properly funded, would you be willing to take it on?

HL: If my political masters said "Thou shalt do", I would, but, speaking 
personally, and I know I speak for everybody in this force, we have to make 
the country liveable, and if this is one of the initiatives that will make 
this country what we want it to be then we have to throw in our weight.

We have to!
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D