Pubdate: Sun, 14 Mar 2004
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2004 The Gleaner Company Limited
Author: Earl Moxam, Senior Gleaner Writer


THE INTERNATIONAL drug trade, fuelled mainly by Colombian drug lords,
represents a clear threat to the stability of the Jamaican state, says
National Security Minister Dr. Peter Phillips.

This "Colombianisation" of Jamaica, was cited by the United States
State Department in its latest International Narcotics Control
Strategy Report, claiming that Colombian drug dealers "are known to
have established command and control centres in Jamaica to direct
their illicit operations."

Far from taking issue with this assessment, Dr. Phillips, in an
interview with The Sunday Gleaner, described the narcotics trade as
"the tap root" of the crime problem in Jamaica.

By the Jamaican Government's own estimates, over 110 metric tonnes of
cocaine are transhipped through the country each year, with
approximately 70 per cent of this amount destined for the U.S. and the
remainder for the United Kingdom.

But, according to the National Security Minister, not leaving the
island untouched, the passage of the cocaine now sustains "a general
environment of lawlessness" in Jamaica. "That does not mean (however)
that you are able to trace each murder to some drug deal," he said.

"What I am saying is that it is something that contributes to the
development of an overall environment in which crime looms large
because the drugs helped form the gangs, sustain the gangs, supply the
resources for the guns and contribute to the corruption of critical
elements in our social institutions which erode the general atmosphere
of law-abiding behaviour."

Faced with that reality, he said that the Jamaican Government was
working with its Colombian counterpart to break the drug link between
the two countries.

"That is why two years ago we went to Colombia. We've established a
platform for co-operation; a platform that is working and is providing
benefits for both of us and for third countries," he said.

A Disappointing Start

With close to 200 murders since the beginning of the year, Dr.
Phillips, who has headed National Security for two years, admitted
that 2004 was off to a disappointing start, but asserted nonetheless
that he expected the situation to improve.

"As was the case in 2002 and 2003 you will notice that there are
spikes and there are troughs. We expect that we will be able to
sustain the reductions in the course of this year despite the bad
beginning," the National Security Minister said optimistically.

The target reduction is 10 per cent per annum.

But, faced with serious financial constraints, which limit the
crime-fighting capacity of the security forces, Dr. Phillips said that
the Government would have to "secure the multiplier effect" of its
limited expenditure.

The strategy he outlined was one which sees Jamaica collaborating with
its partners within and outside of the Hemisphere in surveillance of
the country's coastline and other joint activities.

Strengthening the police force was also a priority he said, "first of
all by beefing up the numbers within the limits of the available
resources, and by providing more and better training, securing a
culture-change in the organisation, and improved intelligence, which
has begun with the establishment of the National Intelligence Bureau."

Additionally, he said that the Government was placing priority on
required improvements in counterpart agencies throughout the public
sector, such as the Customs Department, the Registrar of Companies,
Registrar of Titles, the ports and the Immigration Department.

These and other strategies, he asserted, were important components of
an overall anti-crime drive, "that is necessary for the salvation of
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