Jamaica government clears the air over “patting down” incident involving Trinidad Minister

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Jun 5, CMC – The Jamaica government has blamed a “private security company” for patting down a Minister in the Trinidad and Tobago government when she was leaving the country after attending the Regional Parliamentary Forum as part of the follow-up on the UN Declaration on Ending AIDS last week.

The Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ayanna Webster-Roy, confirmed the incident where that it was alleged that she had been “patted down’ by immigration officials when she was leaving the country.

Kamina Johnson Smith
Kamina Johnson Smith

But Webster-Roy told the Trinidad Express newspaper over the last weekend that she did not wish to speak about the incident just yet as she preferred to speak with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dennis Moses, before issuing any statement on the matter.

But in a statement, the Jamaica Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kamina Johnson Smith, said that “our initial enquiries indicate that a search took place, but that it was conducted by a private security company retained by the international airline on which the minister and her delegation were travelling.

“Furthermore, we are advised that such searches are generally undertaken by the airline under international conventions and are based on random computer selection for additional security screening.

“While we regret the minister’s distress, our enquiries so far reveal that diplomats and ministers of other countries, as well as current and former ministers of Jamaica, across political administrations, have in fact undergone this additional screening process, notwithstanding their status,” she added.

Opposition legislator Dr. Fuad Khan, who was among a three-member Trinidad and Tobago delegation that attended the meeting, told the Trinidad Express newspaper that the government legislator was “patted down’ despite the fact that her diplomatic status was disclosed to the Jamaican authorities.

Khan told the newspaper that the trio were returning to Trinidad on Thursday via Miami when the Jamaican authorities pulled Webster-Roy as the group was about to board the aircraft.

He said he expressed alarm and dismay at the treatment accorded to a Trinidad and Tobago Government minister.

“We found out that they examined her in the most private of places. That is unheard of and uncalled for. And I believe that she was singled out as a minister of the Trinidad and Tobago Government because that doesn’t happen to anybody with a diplomatic passport, especially a minister,” he told the newspaper.

Khan, a former health minister here, said while there was no strip search, she was patted down.

In the statement, Johnson Smith said, the Andrew Holness government “is, however, taking the matter seriously.

“Even as we await a promised formal letter from my counterpart in Trinidad and Tobago, we are making further enquiries regarding the legal framework supporting such searches, as well as the specific circumstances of Friday’s incident. We will write to the airline to make a formal request in this regard.”

Johnson Smith assured the public that the Jamaican government wanted all visitors to Jamaica, including colleague dignitaries from foreign and CARICOM countries, to be comfortable in their travel to and from Jamaica, notwithstanding any security protocols.

She said that it was important to stress that even at this stage of enquiries, it was quite clear that the search was in no way related to the issue of free movement under the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), nor was it related to the minister’s nationality.

She urged her Trinidadian counterpart to convey her personal empathy to Minister Webster-Roy, “for any distress caused by the airline’s security screening process”.

Last year there were allegations by Jamaicans about alleged mistreatment and discrimination by Trinidad and Tobago Immigration authorities following the deportation of a number of Jamaicans.

This matter had led to calls by some Jamaicans to boycott Trinidad and Tobago products and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley visited that Caribbean country to assure Jamaicans that they were not being targeted.

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KINGSTON, Jamaica, Jun 5, CMC – The Jamaica government has blamed a “private security company” for patting down a Minister in the Trinidad and Tobago government when she was leaving the country after attending the Regional Parliamentary Forum as part of the follow-up on the UN Declaration on Ending AIDS last week.

The Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ayanna Webster-Roy, confirmed the incident where that it was alleged that she had been “patted down’ by immigration officials when she was leaving the country.

Kamina Johnson Smith
Kamina Johnson Smith

But Webster-Roy told the Trinidad Express newspaper over the last weekend that she did not wish to speak about the incident just yet as she preferred to speak with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dennis Moses, before issuing any statement on the matter.

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But in a statement, the Jamaica Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kamina Johnson Smith, said that “our initial enquiries indicate that a search took place, but that it was conducted by a private security company retained by the international airline on which the minister and her delegation were travelling.

“Furthermore, we are advised that such searches are generally undertaken by the airline under international conventions and are based on random computer selection for additional security screening.

“While we regret the minister’s distress, our enquiries so far reveal that diplomats and ministers of other countries, as well as current and former ministers of Jamaica, across political administrations, have in fact undergone this additional screening process, notwithstanding their status,” she added.

Opposition legislator Dr. Fuad Khan, who was among a three-member Trinidad and Tobago delegation that attended the meeting, told the Trinidad Express newspaper that the government legislator was “patted down’ despite the fact that her diplomatic status was disclosed to the Jamaican authorities.

Khan told the newspaper that the trio were returning to Trinidad on Thursday via Miami when the Jamaican authorities pulled Webster-Roy as the group was about to board the aircraft.

He said he expressed alarm and dismay at the treatment accorded to a Trinidad and Tobago Government minister.

“We found out that they examined her in the most private of places. That is unheard of and uncalled for. And I believe that she was singled out as a minister of the Trinidad and Tobago Government because that doesn’t happen to anybody with a diplomatic passport, especially a minister,” he told the newspaper.

Khan, a former health minister here, said while there was no strip search, she was patted down.

In the statement, Johnson Smith said, the Andrew Holness government “is, however, taking the matter seriously.

“Even as we await a promised formal letter from my counterpart in Trinidad and Tobago, we are making further enquiries regarding the legal framework supporting such searches, as well as the specific circumstances of Friday’s incident. We will write to the airline to make a formal request in this regard.”

Johnson Smith assured the public that the Jamaican government wanted all visitors to Jamaica, including colleague dignitaries from foreign and CARICOM countries, to be comfortable in their travel to and from Jamaica, notwithstanding any security protocols.

She said that it was important to stress that even at this stage of enquiries, it was quite clear that the search was in no way related to the issue of free movement under the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), nor was it related to the minister’s nationality.

She urged her Trinidadian counterpart to convey her personal empathy to Minister Webster-Roy, “for any distress caused by the airline’s security screening process”.

Last year there were allegations by Jamaicans about alleged mistreatment and discrimination by Trinidad and Tobago Immigration authorities following the deportation of a number of Jamaicans.

This matter had led to calls by some Jamaicans to boycott Trinidad and Tobago products and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley visited that Caribbean country to assure Jamaicans that they were not being targeted.