Jamaica denies Trinidadian Minister searched by airport officials 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica has denied that Trinidadian Government Minister, Ayanna Webster-Roy, was searched by Jamaican Immigration, Customs officials or any security personnel at the Norman Manley International Airport.

Reports emerged from Trinidad and Tobago last week that  Webster-Roy, Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago was ‘patted down’, immediately prior to boarding an international flight on Friday, June 2, 2017.  The reports allege that the search was conducted by Jamaican immigration authorities notwithstanding their having been aware of Webster-Roy’s diplomatic status.

Jamaican Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, said “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.”

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“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.

Johnson-Smith said the Jamaican government is 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 said.

Minister Johnson Smith assured the public that the Jamaican Government wants 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 also stated that it was important to highlight 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 CSME, nor was it related to the Minister’s nationality.

In closing, Minister Johnson Smith said she has informally asked, through the Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, that her personal empathy be conveyed to Minister Webster-Roy, for any distress caused by the airline’s security screening process.

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