While being thankful that domestic violence has not been adversely affecting the flow of visitors to the island, Minister of Tourism, Hon Edmund Bartlett has underscored the importance of tourism playing its part in stemming the scourge of crime.
“The good news is that despite the problem that we are having in safety and security issues at a domestic level, we are still viewed as a safe haven for tourism and for visitors across the world; the minute that changes, God help us,” said Minister Bartlett.
He was giving the keynote address at the Closing Ceremony of the second Ministry of Tourism District Constables Training Programme, held Tuesday (July 4) at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St. James. Ninety-three men and women graduated from the programme, which aims to boost safety and security in resort areas across the island.
The District Constables Training Programme was introduced last year by the Ministry through its agencies the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF). It has added a new layer of security in resort areas to ensure the strict enforcement of the rule of law and to help effectively tackle tourist harassment. The officers will function under a special arm of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and have policing powers.
Following the ceremony, three motor vehicles, a van and a number of bicycles valued at $30 million were presented to the JCF Tourism Unit by Minister Bartlett. Additional equipment is to be acquired at a cost of $20 million. This is part of a total $200 million allotment from TEF to the JCF, which covers training, deployment, salaries, training, equipment and vehicles.
“Out of this very programme from which you are graduating today, we can show the world how security and tourism can work together in harmony to create the three ‘Ss’ that are more important than sun sea and sand; that is, safety, security and seamlessness,” said Minister Bartlett in his charge to the District Constables. He told them, “You are going to be a key part of that whole new architecture that we are creating to drive safety and security across the island and to make destination Jamaica a more desirable place for people to visit.”
He said the expenditures that the Ministry of Tourism has been making to build out the capacity of the JCF to deliver on the safety agenda would continue, “and I want you to know that in this new crime plan that the Government has crafted, tourism has a key role to play not only in generating the tourism dollar that is to help to buy the CCTV or the cars or the ATV (all-terrain vehicles) that will help you to have greater mobility into rougher terrain and small areas, as we’re committed to, but also in driving the community development element through the TPDCO ‘Pon de Corner’ programme to enable more of the social intervention programmes that are required.”
Minister Bartlett also noted that an education component will be introduced in collaboration with the Ministry of Education as there is a need for a change in narrative to create a better, more gentle and more tolerable society. “In all the things that we do, however hard the process might be and the applications are, unless we influence the mind and change the thought process and significantly influence the actions of people, everything else will be good dollars running down the drain,” he said.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Diane McIntosh welcomed the partnership and support of the tourism ministry, noting that deployment of the District Constables “will be a significant boost to our efforts to enhance the security of our resort areas, reassure our visitors and protect the interest and livelihood of the tens of thousands of Jamaicans who benefit from the tourist industry.”
She told the graduates that given their dual role in security and tourism, they were ambassadors “and we expect you to conduct yourself with professionalism no matter how the going gets rough because the security part of it is kind of rough.”
Through the Tourism Enhancement Fund, to date the Ministry of Tourism has committed over $1 billion to the Ministry of National Security to boost safety and security across the island. Other areas of support include $210 million to rehabilitate police stations and other buildings, over $191 million to purchase motor bikes to patrol resort areas, more than $45 million to acquire boat engines and other equipment for Marine Upgrading and $80 million for the commissioning of CCTV systems.