Security minister denies U.S. allegations

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Minister of National Security, Senator Dwight Nelson, has described the findings contained in the recent International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) as an inaccurate depiction of Jamaica’s efforts to combat drugs and organized crime.

The report, compiled by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the United States’ Department of State, asserted that the government’s anti-corruption and anti-crime legislative agenda, announced in 2007, has been stalled in Parliament.

Responding to the contents of the report in the Senate last week, Nelson admitted that the six anti-crime bills should have been passed by now. He said they required the support of the Opposition in their original form, but did not receive it and are being redrafted.

Despite the setback with the bills, Nelson noted that the government was able to pass the Criminal Justice (Plea Bargaining) Regulations and Legal Aid Regulations during this legislative year.

He also stated that debate on the Independent Commission of Investigations Bill, which seeks to establish an Independent Commission of Investigators to deal with cases of abuse by the security forces, is in its final stages in the House of Representatives.

The recruitment of staff for the Office of the Special Coroner, which was effected by amendment of the Coroner’s Act, is now underway and the reform of the nation’s libel laws are now before a Joint Select Committee of Parliament.

Responding to the INCSR’s suggestion that drug-related arrests were relatively stagnant, and that the amount of drug seizures had decreased, Nelson said the report did not accurately represent efforts being made by the security forces. As of December 2009, 8,465 arrests were made for drug-related offences, not the 6,346 as stated in the report, Nelson said.

“The country’s consistent performance in drug seizures underscores the maintenance of our anti-narcotics efforts. The reduction in ganja seizures, for example, may be attributed to success in previous years at combating production. The extradition of key players in the trade has also impacted the resilience of the drug organizations,” said Nelson.

Nelson said aggressive demand reduction efforts, led by agencies such as the National Council on Drug Abuse, have also impacted consumption, reducing local production and trafficking.

He added that the recent arrests of some of the country’s top gang members, the proposal for development of anti-gang legislation and the Ministry of National Security’s Gang Risk Assessment Survey – conducted in July 2009 – are signals of the government’s efforts to wipe out organized crime.

The minister said the government remains fully committed to the implementation of the recommendations of the Strategic Review Panel, which looked at how the Jamaica Constabulary Force could be strengthened to better fulfill its mandate.

Addressing the issue of corruption, Nelson said that a regional survey did not support the assertion made in the INCSR that “corruption ranks first as a concern for Jamaicans”.

“In addition, National Crime Victimization Surveys, conducted in 2006 and 2009, indicated that approximately 95 per cent of Jamaicans have never experienced any form of corruption during their lifetime,” said Nelson. (JIS)

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