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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 12:11 GMT
Drug lords could 'ruin' Jamaica
The BBC's Tim Sebastian met Dr Peter Phillips
The BBC's Tim Sebastian met Dr Peter Phillips
The Jamaican Minister of National Security and Justice, Dr Peter Phillips has claimed that the survival of Jamaica could be called into question if his government cannot curb the power of drug barons in the country.

Reports say that Jamaica is bleeding to death with more than 1,100 murders recorded last year and 100 tonnes of cocaine trans-shipped to western markets.

It's going to take time, resources and will, but we dare not fail.

Dr Peter Phillips
Dr Peter Philips told Tim Sebastian for BBC HARDtalk that the government is putting a new strategy in place to try and tackle drug related murders, but the process would be slow.

"There is no instant solution, there is no magic wand but we have tried to outline a strategy forward," he said.

"It's going to take time, resources and will, but we dare not fail because if we do, the survival of the country is going to be brought into question."

A question of strength

Dr Phillips went on to deny rumours that the Jamaican Government does not have the will or the strength to break the drug lords power, arguing that Jamaica will follow the example set by the Bahamas.

The number of murders in the Bahamas has fallen by 50% since June 2001 following a government round up of drug lords.

The Jamaican Government has also been criticised over the alleged close connection between politicians and drug barons.

In April 2001, the Jamaican Finance Minister Omar Davies and two cabinet colleagues were seen mourning at the funeral of Willie "Haggart" Moore, an infamous gangster.

Police links

Drug dealers in Jamaica are reported to have unlimited power
Drug dealers in Jamaica are reported to have unlimited power
Dr Phillips claimed that drug gangs can no longer depend on political protection from politicians at the highest level of government.

However he did admit that there are probably some "residual connections" left over from when political and drug ties were strong in the 1970s.

"If you asked me whether or not there are elements within the police force that may be compromised I would say I believe there would be," he said.

"If you asked me whether or not within the political system as a whole there may be persons who have links that are too close or which may be compromised, I'd say the probability exists."

Dr Phillips also defended the Jamaican police force over its so called trigger happy attitude.

In the year 2000, 140 people were killed by Jamaican police, the highest ratio of police killings reported anywhere in the world.

"Minimal force"

Dr Phillips called for the police force to be better trained to deal with armed criminals and ensure "the use of force is minimal".

He also launched an attack on a report by the international human rights organisation, Amnesty International which accused the Jamaican police force of abusing human rights.

"Amnesty has developed a particular view of the police force," he said.

"It would be far from me to suggest that everything is perfect regarding the application of force but on the other side we have numbers of police who are subject to direct attacks."

You can hear HARDtalk in full at the following times:

BBC News 24 (times shown in GMT)
0430, repeated 2230

BBC World (times shown in GMT)
0430, repeated 1130, 1630, 1930, 0030

Dr Peter Phillips
"We have intelligence operating in places."
See also:

23 Jul 01 | Americas
Jamaica buries its dead
14 Jul 01 | Americas
Jamaica counts the cost
12 Jul 01 | Americas
Rights groups condemn Jamaica police
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Jamaica
20 Feb 02 | Americas
Timeline: Jamaica
10 Jul 01 | Americas
Jamaica seeks help to stop violence
10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Blairs to visit Jamaica despite violence
10 Jul 01 | Americas
Gun battles shake Jamaica
11 Jul 01 | Americas
Army quells Jamaica unrest
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