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McClean explains Customs Act

3/31/2011

Customs officials are given the right under the law to search persons who they suspect are carrying prohibited goods, but the Customs Act does not allow for cavity searches.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, made this disclosure in an effort to clear the air regarding some concerns that have been raised since the allegations surfaced last week of Jamaican national, Shanique Myrie, being subjected to a body search at the Grantley Adams International Airport on March 14. Her comments came on a call-in programme yesterday afternoon.

McClean said that that piece of legislation, which was enacted in 1985, explicitly states that at no time is there to be any insertion of objects to body cavities. She said that in an instance where a person is thought to have ingested something, that person has to be taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the police would be the ones required to take them there.

“... But they do not do the searches... I want to stress that searches of the person do not include cavity searches, that does not take place according to the law. If any such thing took place, the officer obviously would be outside of his or her right and so there is no normal procedure where any such thing takes place,” she said.

Moreover, the Foreign Minister said that all searches are supposed to be logged and are to be conducted in the presence of two persons.

The Minister went on to say that she has been in constant contact with her Jamaican counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, and she was expected to meet yesterday afternoon with a delegation from that country, headed by the Jamaican High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Sharon Saunders.

Meanwhile, responding to the criticisms about the matter being aired in the public domain, Senator McClean was adamant that the Government of Barbados has sought, except where there was need to clarify issues or set the record straight, to stay out of the media.

“...We have agreed that we will dialogue. As I told him [Dr. Baugh] I tried to keep the information in the public to a minimum in terms of providing the bare facts. I was invited to speak on call-in programmes in Jamaica and so on, I refused. It is not an issue to be dealt with like this. The public has made it public by discussing it... But I felt on Saturday, all things considered, that there should be some information made available to the press and we felt it necessary to keep that to the minimum in terms of factual information,” she contended.

McClean added, “Matters like this should be allowed to be addressed at the level of officials, for example those officials including myself and Cabinets and so on of Governments. But the unfortunate thing is that the media did not allow that to happen, because if you read the stories carried, certainly the article I saw coming out of a paper in Jamaica, it didn’t speak of allegations, it read as if this thing had happened. And I think that is where the media has a major responsibility to ensure that by its statements and by extension the actions of any media house for example, that you don’t create a situation which can lead to dire consequences before we even get to establish what the facts are about the circumstances or the situation.”

The Government minister maintained that there has to be sensitivity on all sides of the matter, maintaining that persons are innocent until proven guilty.

“... And that works two ways. She is making an accusation and we cannot dismiss it. On the other hand, we have to ensure that we provide our public officers due process... We want to give people the right to due process on all fronts,” she assured.

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