Diaspora leaders in the United States have chided the Andrew Holness Administration for neglecting to engage law-abiding Jamaicans living there in its effort to combat crime on the island.
In fact, Dr Rupert Francis, head of the Diaspora Crime and Prevention Task Force in Florida, reacted with blistering scepticism to Holness’s reiteration on Wednesday that the Government has provided United States law enforcement agencies with the names of 30 Jamaicans living in America who are directing murders and other crimes on the island in order to have them tracked down and brought to book
“It’s all a red herring. The same people they could have met with in Jamaica they used taxpayers’ money to come to the United States. This is just a red herring to throw you off. They are trying to say that a lot of people of Jamaican heritage [in the United States] are the real dons. That cannot be the case, because they have a lot of people in Jamaica who are carrying on the skulduggery. I do believe the majority of it comes from Jamaica,” Francis told the Jamaica Observer.
On Wednesday morning, as he announced new states of public emergency for the parishes of St Ann, Clarendon, St Catherine, Kingston and St Andrew, St James, Westmoreland, and Hanover, Holness referenced recent high-level talks that he and Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson had with US law enforcement officials in that country.
The talks, hosted by the US justice department in New York, included the Federal Bureau of Investigations and focused on the growing threat of transnational criminal gangs, organised criminal violence, and the trafficking of illegal guns into Jamaica.
The meetings also reviewed existing programmes and partnerships, identified gaps, and explored new opportunities to advance collaboration among US and Jamaican authorities, as well as commit to increased and more effective information-sharing.
Holness noted that General Anderson had told the US officials that the Jamaican Government is making it clear to criminals that “their criminal links are not stronger than our government and diplomatic links”.
The prime minister stressed that a part of the Government’s crime-fighting strategy is not just to target criminal masterminds or actors on Jamaican soil, but it is also important to use the connections provided by the country’s large Diaspora to build very robust international crime-fighting partnerships which will enable the country to take advantage of treaties and laws in other countries to nab criminals overseas.
“It’s very important for criminals to understand that Jamaica does have very strong and well-respected political and diplomatic links, and we have legal treaties and frameworks in which we can interdict and prosecute them in foreign jurisdictions. We have provided the agencies and entities with a list of names that we have been tracking here which we have certain intelligence on; and the entities are doing their work. You will see the results of our efforts very shortly,” Holness stated on Wednesday.
“We have not necessarily done it in a targeted, structured way before, and the partnerships have usually been our partners utilising our laws to interdict criminals in who they have an interest. And what we have said is that we need to utilise these existing partnerships to be able to interdict criminals in foreign countries,” he told journalists.
That, however, has not impressed Dr Francis.
“I would love to get the empirical data. There must be actors in Jamaica and in the US, but the majority of actors cannot be in the US. This is not like when the Shower Posse was operating. They cannot get away with it. These people must be operating really under the radar,” Francis said while dismissing criticism that he was bitter against the Government.
“I am talking about this as a Jamaican. I love Jamaica, I exude Jamaica. So, for those persons who are saying, ‘You are jealous,’ that’s foolishness, we are saying every Jamaican life matters. I have counted so many murders since last week to this week that I stopped counting,” he told the Observer.
In January this year Francis, in an interview with the Observer, accused the Government of cold shouldering the Diaspora Crime and Prevention Task Force and ignoring its efforts to offer solutions to solve the island’s social and crime problems, despite public statements that imply it is doing otherwise.
“They have been talking about being willing to engage the Diaspora, nothing of the sort. They say one thing and do something else; they are speaking in forked tongues, in a sense,” he vented then.
According to Francis, a retired Jamaica Defence Force captain, Jamaicans who reside overseas are interested in the welfare of the country beyond just making monetary contributions. He said the entity, from as far back as 2015, had approached the Government with an offer to help.
On Wednesday also, Irwine Clare, head of Caribbean Immigrant Services in New York, urged the Government to utilise the skills of Jamaicans in the diaspora.
“Prime Minister, please harness some of the talents in the Diaspora who have law enforcement background and contribution. Please include them, Sir, in your conversations. Give them an opportunity to be part of the stakeholdership, that’s all I’d like my prime minister to do,” Clare told the Observer.
He said he was angered by Jamaica’s inability to effectively deal with crime and scolded Holness for broadcasting the Government’s collaboration with the US.
“I’ve heard the prime minister speak of these individuals who seem to be the merchants of much of the mayhem in Jamaica. I’m not concerned in knowing these guys at this level, I’m only interested in knowing when they’re caught, and I don’t know what value it adds to keep repeating this information,” he said.
“I don’t know that the US authorities want us to keep saying that we gave them the names, because one thing I know about law enforcement on this side is, they come to the public when they have arrested people, they never tell us when they’re going after people,” added Clare.
“I’ve heard the prime minister speak of people who send ammunition and guns in barrels with rice and flour, and things like that. So, if we know that for sure, tell us where those barrels are coming from, tell us who are the shippers… we don’t hear them catching the people who they are going to. So if we have that intelligence, then we should know from the intelligence who is sending the barrels,” he said.