Drug lords could ‘ruin’ Jamaica
By BBC News – Tuesday, 12 March, 2002
Copyright: BBC News
The Jamaican Minister of National Security and Justice, Dr Peter Phillips has claimed that the survival of Jamaica could be called into question if his government cannot curb the power of drug barons in the country.
Reports say that Jamaica is bleeding to death with more than 1,100 murders recorded last year and 100 tonnes of cocaine trans-shipped to western markets.
Dr Peter Philips told Tim Sebastian for BBC HARDtalk that the government is putting a new strategy in place to try and tackle drug related murders, but the process would be slow.
“There is no instant solution, there is no magic wand but we have tried to outline a strategy forward,” he said.
“It’s going to take time, resources and will, but we dare not fail because if we do, the survival of the country is going to be brought into question.”
A question of strength
Dr Phillips went on to deny rumours that the Jamaican Government does not have the will or the strength to break the drug lords power, arguing that Jamaica will follow the example set by the Bahamas.
The number of murders in the Bahamas has fallen by 50% since June 2001 following a government round up of drug lords.
The Jamaican Government has also been criticised over the alleged close connection between politicians and drug barons.
In April 2001, the Jamaican Finance Minister Omar Davies and two cabinet colleagues were seen mourning at the funeral of Willie “Haggart” Moore, an infamous gangster.
Dr Phillips claimed that drug gangs can no longer depend on political protection from politicians at the highest level of government.
However he did admit that there are probably some “residual connections” left over from when political and drug ties were strong in the 1970s.
“If you asked me whether or not there are elements within the police force that may be compromised I would say I believe there would be,” he said.
“If you asked me whether or not within the political system as a whole there may be persons who have links that are too close or which may be compromised, I’d say the probability exists.”
Dr Phillips also defended the Jamaican police force over its so called trigger happy attitude.
In the year 2000, 140 people were killed by Jamaican police, the highest ratio of police killings reported anywhere in the world.
Dr Phillips called for the police force to be better trained to deal with armed criminals and ensure “the use of force is minimal”.
He also launched an attack on a report by the international human rights organisation, Amnesty International which accused the Jamaican police force of abusing human rights.
“Amnesty has developed a particular view of the police force,” he said.
“It would be far from me to suggest that everything is perfect regarding the application of force but on the other side we have numbers of police who are subject to direct attacks.”