Pubdate: Thu, 02 May 2013
Source: Jamaica Observer (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2013 The Jamaica Observer Ltd,


THE Canadian High Commission has apologised to the Jamaica Defence
Force (JDF) for a botched naval exercise in March, which saw live
50-calibre rounds being fired in Jamaican coastal waters by two of
that country's naval vessels and the interference with a boat in which
former Prime Minister Bruce Golding was travelling.

The disclosure came on Tuesday as the JDF sought to clear the air on
the incident, which the Canadian media said has caused that country
much embarrassment.

The vessels, the Goose Bay and the Kingston, were given authorisation
to enter Jamaican waters to make port calls in Montego Bay for the
purpose of crew rest and recuperation on March 23 and leave on March
26, according to the JDF.

"Having departed, it was subsequently discovered that one of the
vessels was conducting live fire exercises and interception of vessels
in our archipelagic waters south of the Jamaican mainland. This would
be inconsistent with UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, article 19,
that lists a number of activities that could be considered prejudicial
to the right of 'innocent passage through the territorial seas of any
state' including 'any exercise or practice with weapons of any kind',"
the JDF explained.

The vessels were patrolling south of Jamaica as part of Operation
Caribbe, Canada's contribution to an ongoing, United States-led
anti-drug trafficking operation in the Caribbean and East Pacific Ocean.

But crew members on both vessels reportedly began firing their ships'
weapons, including large 50-calibre machine guns, as part of a
live-fire training exercise.

The Goose Bay also deployed its small inflatable boat to intercept and
identify 17 small fishing vessels to ensure they weren't carrying
cocaine, marijuana or were involved in any other illicit activity.

The Goose Bay and Kingston also reportedly pulled up alongside one
vessel which was carrying Golding.

Golding, in an interview with Nationwide News Network, confirmed that
he was aboard the vessel but said he was treated respectfully by the
Canadian naval crew.

He also said he reported the activity to the JDF Coast Guard, who
immediately contacted the Canadian vessel.

"The live firing exercise was immediately discontinued. The JDF Coast
Guard then discussed the facts of the occurrence with a liaison
officer in Canada. Subsequent dialogue was held between Headquarters
JDF and the Canadian High Commission. These talks revealed that the
vessels were operating with navigational charts that did not correctly
reflect Jamaica's southern maritime boundaries, which were adjusted by
the Maritime Areas Act of 1996, that declared Jamaica an archipelagic
state. It was also established that the vessel, in conducting the live
firing exercise and interception of vessels, was not aware that they
were in Jamaican waters and did not intend to so operate in Jamaican
waters," the JDF said Tuesday.

The Coast Guard reported that the Ministry of National Security and
the Office of the Prime Minister were informed of the incident and
were advised that the JDF found the explanation acceptable.

"The JDF then recommended and received approval to conclude the matter
at the operational level. An apology was later sent to the JDF, via
the Canadian High Commission and the entire situation was deemed an
unfortunate error," the JDF reported.

Since 2006, Canada has become increasingly involved in the
anti-narcotics war and has deployed submarines and surveillance
aircraft to assist the US in the war on illicit drug trafficking in
Caribbean waters.

Canada has reportedly spent in the region of Ca$17 million in the war
on drugs since 2008.
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