Hanna demands answers on Gov't's involvement in US detention of J'can fishermen

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Opposition Spokesperson on foreign affairs and foreign trade, Lisa Hanna, is demanding that the Government provides a detailed explanation of its role in facilitating the actions of US authorities, which led to the incarceration of five Jamaican fishermen in the US after they were detained in Haitian waters.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday disclosed in a press release that it granted a waiver to the US authorities, allowing them to detain the Jamaican fishermen who have now filed a lawsuit against the United States Coast Guard on claims that they were held in inhumane conditions for more than a month.

According to the ministry, the waiver allowed for the arrest of five Jamaicans in 2017 under the Ship Rider agreement with the US, based on information regarding suspicion of trafficking in contraband, the location of the vessel, the Jamaican registration of the vessel and nationality of the crew.

Hanna, in a statement today, demanded that Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith and Minister of National Security, Dr Horace Chang provide the details of the waiver of Jamaica's right to exercise jurisdiction and authorisation of the treaty state to enforce its laws against its nationals in the interest of security, defence, international relations and justice.

She contended that the information from the foreign affairs ministry reveals a serious dereliction of duty by both ministers based on the provisions of Section 20 of the Maritime Drug Trafficking (Suppression) Act and questioned whether or not due process was followed in granting the waiver for the apprehension and detention of the Jamaican fishermen.

“The public must be told if the minister of national security was involved in the decision, which allowed the US Coast Guard to arrest and mistreat the Jamaicans and whether or not the Shiprider Agreement was properly followed,” the Opposition spokesperson said.

The foreign affairs ministry also reiterated yesterday that it has no record of any complaint from the Jamaican fishermen seeking redress from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) since the incident.

Hanna said she does not believe this claim, stating that Chang and particularly Johnson Smith last Friday seemed to have given a misleading account of the Government's involvement.

“Questions by Senator KD Knight on the Shiprider Agreement were met with ignorance only for the government now to admit that a waiver was in fact granted,” she continued.

Johnson Smith at that time maintained that the only confirmation the Government had was that the incident started in Haitian waters, as well as that the men were deported to Jamaica in 2018. She also indicated that the Government was continuing its enquiry into the matter.

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