'Sometimes we have to drop the sledgehammer on them'


'Sometimes we have to drop the sledgehammer on them'

Senator Sinclair condemns corrupt wharf employees who allow guns in; calls for state of emergency in St James

Observer writer

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

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MONTEGO, BAY, St James — Councillor for Montego Bay North East in St James Senator Charles Sinclair has condemned corruption among the country's border control employees, whom he said allow illegal guns and ammunition to enter the country.

Likening the border control employees to terrorists, Sinclair told the recent monthly meeting of the St James Municipal Corporation that he felt despondent as he made reference to the recent guns and ammunition find at the Montego Bay Freeport, home to one of the country's major wharves where goods are imported daily.

“What is troubling and causing me to feel on the low side is that there was the news that came out a couple days ago pertaining to the find at the Montego Freeport, where someone or persons tried to import into Jamaica 19 illegal firearms, six of them being high-powered rifles, and 400-odd rounds of ammunition for AK47. When I looked at the photos being circulated I saw that this was some serious ammunition. It wasn't somebody just sending something on a frolic; this was sent through a recognised port [and] it must mean that there are persons who are in the system. Somebody must have been operating from within for somebody to take that chance to import 19 firearms. Everything at the port is supposed to be scanned, based on the information that I have,” he said.

There has since been another major gun find at the wharf in Montego Bay.

“Mr Chairman, who would have contemplated bringing into Jamaica those types of weapons? And the only purpose for bringing in firearm and gunshot is for people to be murdered; it couldn't be for any other reason! You don't shoot bird with dem kinda shot and you don't shoot bird wid dem type of guns! It must mean that we have some people who can be branded as terrorists. This [the wharf] is a place where we have people for border protection to protect Jamaica from infiltration of contraband and somebody is prepared to take the chance to seek to import that type of weaponry,” Sinclair argued.

He added that the so-called terrorists who collude with criminals should not benefit from the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms which outlines the rights and freedoms of a citizen of Jamaica.

“I will make a comment, and I don't know it is going to be taken here or elsewhere, but you know in 2011 the previous Administration passed the Charter of Rights which is now a part of our constitution and it is the Charter of Rights that everybody in Jamaica clings to, saying, 'I have the right to this…I have the right to that'. And I will support them in them having those rights, but the only persons who should have those rights are law-abiding people, not criminals. People who have ill intent should not get the benefit of any of those rights.

“I believe that the Charter of Rights that we have is for countries that exhibit an attitude of a particular kind – countries like Switzerland, Sweden, Norway – where when you look there you don't see this type of criminal element that is operating [here]. The reform that is going to allow the Government that has a duty to protect the life of every citizen of Jamaica is to take some hard and drastic action against persons who behave and conduct themselves as terrorists and want to import into our country things that are not manufactured here for the sole purpose of causing mayhem. The Government is trying and has expended a lot in providing the security forces with hardware and tools of intelligence capabilities…but the heart of man is not changed so easy, sometimes we have to drop the sledgehammer on them. As the prime minister says, there comes a time when we have to stop,” he continued.

Senator Sinclair also commented on the upsurge in crime in St James since the start of the year, and suggested a reimplementation of the state of emergency (SOE).

“We are into a new year and I think we have come from a far way in St James. I've been doing some tracking of incidence of murder, and so forth [showing that] between the years 2012 and 2016, there was a 20 per cent increase in murder, year upon year during that time, until it got to 345, and then we did very well with the implementation of the SOE which came to St James in the first instance, and then a zone of special operation (ZOSO) has done significant work in the Mount Salem area where it was implemented. When you look at the result in relation to murder in what is a 17-year low coming out of the SOE and then, we have started 2021 without an SOE and it seems that some people believe that they can exhibit some bravery again because we hear some things cropping up a little too often. It is not because of the police not trying because they are trying; you see them out on the road, you see them in the communities quite often in heavy numbers, but I honestly believe that the SOE has some significance, psychologically or otherwise, beyond just having police and soldiers out there,” stated Sinclair.

Councillor for the Granville Division Michael Troupe agreed with Sinclair and added that artistes in dancehall “who glorify guns in their music” are a contributing factor in the increase of guns and gun-slinging in the second city.

“I am agreeing with Senator Charles Sinclair 100 per cent but we need to go further, Mayor. If we look, some of our biggest artistes are now behind bars. They are the ones who are assisting the younger ones that gun is the order of the day. So, every young boy, as they start to creep, the first thing they find, they start to shoot; whether a pencil or piece of paper. We need to change the culture and we need to ask Minister [Olivia] Grange (minister of entertainment) to ban certain music whether in private party or public space because the young people of today listen to the artistes more than the preacher. The gun and the skin-out, the bleaching …and all those things are coming from the artistes, so the gun culture will always be here unless we change the type of music that we have,” Troupe said.

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