MONTEGO BAY, St James — Former Jamaican envoy to the United Nations, Ambassador Curtis A Ward says the onus is on Jamaica to safeguard its borders against the flood of illegal guns originating from the United States.
Ward who was speaking on Saturday night during the third annual police ball hosted by the St James Police Civic Committee, in collaboration with Proven Wealth, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, said Jamaicans should not expect the USA to guard the island's shoreline.
"We blame the United States for not doing enough to stop the flow of illegal guns to our shores," Ward, a former deputy head of Jamaica's mission at the United Nations, said.
"While the US deserves some blame, it is our responsibility to ensure that our borders are secure and that we have control over what enters our territory," he added.
Ward, who is a former special adviser to the UN's Security Council's Counter Terrorism Committee insisted that while "the US shares a mutual interest in controlling illicit arms trafficking, ... it is our responsibility to protect our territory, our country, not the responsibility of others."
Recently, Seventh-day Adventist clergyman Charles Brevitt joined the long list of critics to lambast the US for not doing enough to stem the flow of guns from that country to Jamaica.
Ward, an attorney who currently chairs the Commission on Caribbean Affairs in Maryland noted that the Caribbean Basin and Security Initiative, a US funded partnership programme "is a starting point for addressing this problem (gun trafficking)".
However, he said, it was incumbent on the Jamaican Government to act proactively and put together the necessary programmes to keep the illegal guns out. He placed national sovereignty at the centre of the issue.
"We should not wait for the United States to set the priorities for us, we must set them ourselves. We must take responsibility for nation building and welcome international partners who share our objectives and our priorities," he said.
In addition to the USA, Ward said, Jamaica should be actively seeking cooperation with "third countries", to combat arms trafficking which has fuelled the country's high crime and murder rate.
Jamaican security authorities have consistently identified the nation's eastern neighbour Haiti as a major conduit for the gun traffic. Jamaican police say weapons from Haiti are usually brought in by small vessels - often fishing boats - in exchange for ganja.
Ward criticised Jamaica for failing to utilise untapped resources in the Diaspora "for border security, maritime security management and capacity building technical assistance."
"The expertise and available resources within the Jamaican Diaspora is overlooked. The Diaspora should be viewed as a vehicle through which technical assistance and guidance can be tapped to provide culturally responsive approaches to provide law enforcement and community policing strategies in Jamaica," Ward argued.
"There is expertise to help develop an effective security architecture, suitable for the uniqueness of this island nation and to provide guidance required and the necessary resources to implement related programmes," he said.
He lamented what he said was a missed opportunity a few months ago during the Jamaica Diaspora Conference held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre. He claimed little was done to "harness the expertise of the Jamaican Diaspora to address the perceived or real lack of a safe and secure environment on which to do business in Jamaica".