‘T&T minister was not searched by any J’can officials’

Jamaica Observer:-Moving to head off a new quarrel with Trinidad and Tobago, the Jamaican foreign ministry yesterday insisted no Jamaican immigration, customs officials or Government security personnel conducted any search of a female Government minister from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) partner state at the Norman Manley International Airport.

Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith was responding to media reports that Ayanna Webster-Roy, minister in the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, was searched immediately prior to boarding an international flight on Friday, June 2, 2017.

The reports alleged that the search was conducted by Jamaican immigration authorities, notwithstanding their awareness of the minister’s official status.

“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,” Johnson Smith said.

“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,” she added.

“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.”

“The 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.”

Minister 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 stated 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, nor was it related to the minister’s nationality.

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

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