Jamaica Information Services
Minister of National Security, Senator the Hon. Dwight Nelson, has said that the impending anti-gang legislation could be perceived as "draconian," but emphasised that they are necessary, as organised crime is posing the greatest threat to citizens' security in the Caribbean.
He was speaking at the opening ceremony for a United Nations Development Programme workshop on citizens' security in the Caribbean, held at the Courtleigh Hotel, in New Kingston, on January 27.
Senator Nelson said he is hoping to introduce an anti-gang legislation in Parliament by March, aimed at curbing the activities of Jamaica's approximately 286 known gangs. He noted that these gangs are responsible for about 64 per cent of all murders committed in the country and that in some instances the gangs have become so powerful, they have started operating franchises.
"A gang will be domiciled in a particular territory and it franchises out its operation, giving groups in other areas the right to operate under its name," he said.
The Minister pointed out that the gang phenomenon is not confined to Jamaica, as other Caribbean countries are also facing the same problem, with Trinidad and Tobago having about 86 gangs and Guyana, 40. He said these gangs are well organised and sophisticated, and are involved in activities, such as drug smuggling, human trafficking, gun smuggling and money laundering.
He noted that drug trafficking has taken on "massive proportions" and that the trade now values more than US$5 billion, exceeding the value of all legitimate Caribbean exports.
"Analyses carried out by researchers suggest that the growing presence of the narco-economy, now the largest merchandise exporting sector in the region, lurks underneath the Caribbean's crime and social reality," Senator Nelson said, adding that any exercise to address law and order has to take into consideration these gang activities.
The Minister said the Caribbean must act to arrest this phenomenon, as it was having a negative impact on foreign exchange earnings in legitimate sectors, such as tourism and banking, which is being tarnished by money-laundering activities. The increasing activities of gangs also pose a threat to the region's ability to garner foreign aid, while also negatively affecting diplomatic relationships.
"This behoves us to act with dispatch. There can be no doubt that the issue of citizens' security has emerged as a significant challenge to good governance and human development in the Caribbean region. Accordingly, we must act to address citizens' security challenges in the Caribbean," Senator Nelson said.
The UNDP workshop, titled 'Charting the Way Forward for the Preparation of the Caribbean Regional Human Development Report on Citizens' Security', will last until January 29. The workshop aims to engage stakeholders in initial discussion on the challenges related to the preparation of the 2010 report, and identify the potential methodology and strategy to be followed throughout the process. This is the first time that a Human Development Report is being prepared in the Caribbean.
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