Justice minister lashes pranksters issuing bomb threats

FALMOUTH, Trelawny — Lashing out at pranksters who issue out bomb threats which have led to the dismissal of classes at schools across Jamaica on Thursday, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck charged the 34 newly minted justices of the peace (JPs) in Trelawny that they should assist in clearing up misinformation and mischief in their respective communities.

“Even while you’re sitting there today [Thursday], there are people calling schools that bombs are in schools. So quite a few schools in Clarendon, St Catherine, Kingston, also in Trelawny now have to be closed. You see the mischief and because the principal or the police can’t take chances from you getting an e-mail or a phone call, the school is locked down for a day. And that is a sort of mischief that you have these rogues across Jamaica engaged in to the detriment of the well-being of others,” Chuck said Thursday.

Several schools across the island were again disrupted Friday because of bomb threats received by e-mail.

A lower school student of the Wolmer’s High School for Girls in Kingston on Friday recounted how a bomb threat caused the entire student and teacher population at the institution to leave classrooms and headed to Heroes’ Circle, where they stood in the sun awaiting further orders.

Classes were eventually suspended following the threat, which the police maintained was a hoax as there has been no evidence of bombs anywhere. The security forces had to roll out their bomb teams islandwide, accompanied by sniffer dogs to assist them in their search for evidence of explosives on school compounds.

“Miss didn’t specify over the intercom but most people thought it was based on what happened at Immaculate and other schools the day before. We were told to line up and not panic. Everyone went to Heroes’ Circle, where at least one girl fainted. Luckily, I had my umbrella with me. Everybody was running around looking for cool shade and water. Some people were sitting because standing up made them very tired. It was very hectic,” the Wolmer’s student told the Jamaica Observer.

The bomb threat at Wolmer’s was just one in a series of messages said to have been sent in the form of e-mail that were relayed to numerous schools across the island Thursday and Friday, warning of imminent danger.

St George’s College in Kingston and several in the rural areas also had to send students home early on Friday because of bomb threats.

Said Chuck on Thursday: “So justices of the peace, you must be that noble citizen who ensure that good order, that proper information, that people can depend on you for the correct information. And if you don’t know, just say you don’t know but you will try to get the information. But don’t give people wrong advice or if you’re uncertain, don’t give people uncertain information,” Chuck said.

“You must be committed to the truth. Don’t be a part of the social media misinformation, propaganda and mischief that goes across Jamaican everyday. People are determine to misinform and also to create mischief,” he added.

He, who was speaking at the commissioning of JPs at the Glistening Waters restaurant in Trelawny on Thursday, also warned individuals with duplicate driver’s licence that they will found out the consequences when national identification cards are available.

“There are rogues across Jamaica who go from JP to JP getting same picture, but validated in different names. And that is how you get different driver’s licence; but they will soon be found out. As soon as the national identification card comes on stream, we are going to know who has multiple names and in fact, maybe a few with multiple driver’s licences,” the justice minister cautioned.

“It used to happen with passports until PICA [Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency] started to use picture identification and use a system where you can identify persons’ pictures, and if there are duplication of names with the same picture, they have been able to find a few. So it is not now happening, with the NIDs that will definitely be eliminated,” he added.

Addressing the newly commissioned JPs, custos of Trelawny Hugh Gentles, and president of the Trelawny Justices of the Peace Association Kenneth Grant called on the newly commissioned justices of the peace not to refuse from providing community services.

“People, for God’s sake, you say you want to serve, serve the people. We are their servants and not their masters. Sign the document when they come as long as the documents are not fraudulent,” Grant charged

“Now you, the newly sworn in JPs who have applied for the posts will perform very well for the first year, I hope, don’t prove me wrong. [as] that’s when my problem and custos’ problem will start. But for God’s sake, I hope that won’t be so. The majority of justices work hard in this parish but some, you have to wonder if they are still around,” he added.

— Additional reporting by Jason Cross