MONTEGO BAY, St James - MEMBER of Parliament for East Central St James Edmund Bartlett is concerned that the resort city of Montego Bay has earned the reputation for being the epicentre of the lottery scam in the Caribbean.
"I am ashamed that Montego Bay has gotten the reputation as the scam city of the Caribbean," bemoaned Bartlett, who is a former tourism minister.
The member of Parliament who was speaking last week at the annual fund-raising gala for the East Central St James Educational Council was echoing similar concerns expressed by Minister of National Security Peter Bunting at the opening ceremony of the refurbished Barnett Street Police Station in Montego Bay, earlier this year.
"...But what we have now is that Montego Bay is known as the tourist city, but it is quickly gaining the infamy as the hub for the lotto scam," Bunting said then.
The security minister also lamented that the lottery scam fuels four out of every 10 murders committed in the parish of St James.
" The estimate that we have is that 40 per cent of the murders in the St James division are related in one way or another to the operation of the lottery scam. And I think it is important for people to make that connection so that there is no tolerance for this kind of activity," Bunting said.
"We are generally way too tolerant of criminal activity in Jamaica and sometimes we don't see the white collar crime as crime at all. We think of it as hustling, but in many cases that white collar crime feeds the violent crime at the street level one way or another."
And earlier this week, West Union International ordered its operators in St James to close their businesses until security measures are put in place to combat the lottery scamming industry.
In the meantime, Bartlett, who is now the opposition spokesperson on tourism and entertainment, emphasised that due to the perception of crime, much work had to be done to position Montego Bay as the number one tourist resort city in the Caribbean.
"This is the tourism capital of the Caribbean and I know the difficulty which I had is marketing the destination out there against these negatives. Even though we have reggae music and we have the best athletes in the world, Usain Bolt, Veronica Campbell, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce... even though we have lovely beaches and fine geo-physical features we still have the nagging perception of a destination that is unsafe, and as a people that is involved in bandulu business," Bartlett explained.
But he stressed that he is using education as a tool to improve the perception of the destination.
"In this the 50th anniversary of our Independence, we have to decide what our future is going to be, and my future for St James East Central and for Jamaica is education, education and more education."