KINGSTON, Jamaica, June 19, 2019 - As the developments unfold in the case of the five Jamaican fishermen who were detained, mistreated and jailed by the United States Coast Guard in 2017 on suspicion of drug smuggling, National Security Minister Dr. Horace Chang is to meet with US Embassy officials next week, to get more information.
Speaking on RJR's Hotline programme Thursday morning, Dr. Chang admitted that there are inconsistencies with reports from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Jamaican government
He disclosed that the government received reports from the U.S. Coast Guard that its team saw 600 pounds of ganja thrown from the boat that the Jamaican fishermen were aboard.
The fishermen claimed they were subjected to inhumane treatment and denied the opportunity to contact their families, some of whom thought they had died, during the month they remained at sea.
Court documents by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the fishermen, revealed that the U.S. Coast Guard said about 100 pounds of marijuana were found floating in the water miles away but it would be difficult to prove to a jury that it came from the boat in which the Jamaicans were travelling.
The National Security Minister said the inconsistencies are of major concern to the Jamaican government and the "Ministry of Foreign Affairs, supporting by the Ministry of National Security will go into full investigation with the US authorities."
Asked what action has been taken by the Jamaican government since it discovered these discrepancies, Dr. Chang reiterated that the Shiprider agreement with the US will have to be renegotiated, however, the issue cannot be resolved in a week.
Dr. Chang said measures are in place to ensure that Jamaicans who are apprehended by foreign authorities are treated properly while in detention.
"We still expect that if there is ill-treatment and mistreatment, they would complain to the consular office or to the relevant police officer that is placed at the consular office. Of course, the practical side of this is that if they are in fact involved in drug trading, they may not want to report to the consular office," he explained.
A lawsuit was filed last week Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, on behalf of four of the five Jamaican fishermen: Dexter Weir, Patrick Wayne Ferguson, David Roderick Williams, and Luther Fian Patterson. the fifth Jamaican George Thompson chose not joined the suit.
The suit claimed that “after stopping their fishing boat in the Caribbean Sea, the Coast Guard seized the fishermen; removed them from their boat, which Coast Guard officers then destroyed; forced them to strip naked, supplying them with paper-thin coveralls; stripped naked, given white, paper-thin overalls and disposable slippers to wear instead, and subsequently chained by their ankles to metal cables on multiple Coast Guard ships which made stops in Guantanamo Bay, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Miami.
They were held incommunicado for more than a month, all while denying them access to shelter, basic sanitation, proper food and medical care.”
Since then, a number of organizations including the Opposition PNP has been calling for a full investigation into the matter.