Jamaica Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett (FILE)
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KINGSTON – Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett is to travel to North America and Europe this weekend as Jamaica moves to quell any fallout from its decision to impose a state of emergency in St James, where the island’s tourist resort of Montego Bay is situated.
Bartlett told a news conference that the authorities have already developed “a comprehensive programme with our partners” from the three major markets, including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
He said from this weekend he would be moving to “cover those markets to meet with all our partners and to ensure that the future bookings, because I think that the winter (booking) is holding and that’s the message we want to have”.
He said the concerns for the authorities here would be future bookings adding “we want to look to make sure that we shore up the summer and the fall because we are pushing to inch into the five million arrivals this year”.
The government introduced the state of emergency last week Thursday in a bid to deal with the rising criminal activities including murder in that parish. Last year, more than 300 people were killed in St James and the authorities have said more than 200 people including those wanted for murder have been detained under the state of emergency.
Bartlett said that Jamaica would continue its aggressive public relations campaign noting “we are out there and we are making the point that Jamaica is being made safer”.
Earlier Prime Minister Andrew Holness told reporters that he is “prepared to do what it takes to address this crime problem” and warned ‘all of what we are doing is threatened by the security situation in Jamaica”.
He said crime is but one aspect of the island’s security and his administration was also concerned about its ability to protect and control its borders, telecommunication and financial services among other sectors.
He dismissed the notion that the state of emergency is all about dealing with the crime “in our faces, the murders, and the public disorder” adding “it is also to deal with what I like to call an eco-system of criminality at an enterprise level”.
“We should never take it for granted that there are not masterminds, criminal kingpins who are organising and facilitating the street level crime that you are seeing,” he said.
“So the state of emergency is just not targeting the person pulling the trigger, it is targeting to every single player who form a node in this network of criminal enterprise that is now a growing and thriving eco-system and we must destroy it.”
Holness said he was pleased with the public interaction with the security forces and that the government is ensuring that the human rights of those detainees are respected.
But he said the authorities are also aware of attempts by some elements to drive a wedge between the security forces, noting “some of these elements are within the forces and some of them are criminals.
“It would not be a surprise that some of the criminals are connected to some of elements and they are using a master mind strategy to undermine the unity of the forces,” Holness said, expressing his confidence in the security forces to see through those offences and whatever strategies that are used to impact on emotions that good reasons will prevail.
“This is an opportunity for the security forces to show the people of Jamaica that they are capable of being a force to be reckoned with, with violence as a last and limited resort,” Holness told reporters.
“At the end of this, whatever fallout there may be in tourism must be recovered by the commentary that the Jamaican security forces acted superbly in the use of the extra ordinarily powers given to them and that they have reduced, contained the murder rate, disrupted and uprooted the criminal networks and have protected and secured the life and treasure of the people of St James,” he added. (CMC)