Monday, 19 February 2018

The JDF’s Protected Mobility Vehicle Squadron

The JDF Protected Mobility Vehicle Squadron, plaque. Image: Jamaica Defence Force.

This bit of silliness happened in 2016, but since this 'mistake' was left, as is, it is still relevant for discussion.

The army received their new armoured personnel carriers, and decided to create a new division for troops being transported in these vehicles. I have to wonder if this new division was created by a soldier or someone from some other profession. Perhaps a cook, a fisherman or a politician? And why would the army top-brass give this their blessing? So silly.

No military in the world has a protected mobility vehicle squadron. But they do have a mechanized infantry. How about mechanized infantry units, for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalion, The Jamaica Regiment? That sounds like it. And also remove the Bushmaster's image from the logo since you are neither the owner of the patent for that design nor are you a shareholder at Thales.

For the top-brass at the JDF (and the Ministry of National Security and the National Security Council), a bit of a refresher:
Mechanized infantry are infantry equipped with armored personnel carriers (APCs) or infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) for transport and combat (see also mechanized force). 
Mechanized infantry is distinguished from motorized infantry in that its vehicles provide a degree of protection from hostile fire, as opposed to "soft-skinned" wheeled vehicles (trucks or jeeps) for motorized infantry. Most APCs and IFVs are fully tracked or are all-wheel drive vehicles (6×6 or 8×8), for mobility across rough ground. Some nations distinguish between mechanized and armored infantry, designating troops carried by APCs as mechanized and those in IFVs as armored.
Source: Wikipedia

Friday, 16 February 2018

What Are Jamaica's National Security Interests?

Petrojam petroleum refinery, Kingston, Jamaica. Image: Petrojam.

Have you ever heard a Jamaican politician utter the words 'national security interests'?
National security refers to the security of a nation state, including its citizens, economy, and institutions, and is regarded as a duty of government. 
Originally conceived as protection against military attack, national security is now widely understood to include non-military dimensions, including economic security, energy security, environmental security, food security, cyber security etc. Similarly, national security risks include, in addition to the actions of other nation states, action by violent non-state actors, narcotic cartels, and multinational corporations, and also the effects of natural disasters
Governments rely on a range of measures, including political, economic, and military power, as well as diplomacy. They may also act to build the conditions of security regionally and internationally by reducing transnational causes of insecurity, such as climate change, economic inequality, political exclusion, and militarisation.
Source: Wikipedia

When the administration that divested Petrojam and sold out almost 50% of its ownership to Venezuela, both the ruling party and the opposition didn't see the clear and present danger of such a folly? Well, it didn't take long for them to feel the pain now that the US placed sanctions on Venezuela. In the news:
Government 'aggressive' on Petrojam refinery takeover 
Government plans to own the Petrojam refinery in its entirety by buying the 49 per cent stake currently owned by Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the Venezuela State-owned oil company, according to a Bloomberg report on Thursday. 
“We are cognisant of the current situation in Venezuela and we know that they're not in a position to participate in the upgrade plan anymore,” Minister of Energy, Science and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley told Bloomberg in a telephone interview. 
“It's in our interest for Jamaica's energy security that we go forward with the upgrades as planned,” he continued, informing the news outlet that Government is “aggressively” in pursuit of the purchase. 
PDVSA has yet to respond to the notice formally, the energy minister also said. 
The Jamaica Observer made contact with Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica for a statement, but up to press time none was received. 
The decision to buy comes almost a year after both countries signed an agreement to upgrade the refinery in Kingston and to improve its production capacity from 36,000 to 55,000 barrels per day. 
At the time the upgrade was estimated to cost between US$850 million and US$1 billion, “depending on the technology that is employed”. 
“We'll be able to satisfy all our domestic demand and have additional supplies to export to other Caribbean countries,” Wheatley said back in February last year. But he had also told Parliament – in a response to Opposition member Fitz Jackson – that had the Venezuela Government been unable to contribute to the project, Petrojam “would have to go to the market and seek another investor”. 
However, economic circumstances have since worsened for Venezuela and the energy minister's position has also changed. Though Venezuela sits on the world's largest crude oil reserves, the country has seen its fair share of economic crisis since oil prices began falling in 2014, with hyperinflation, shortages of basic supplies, and mass migration of its citizens, as well as violent protests. 
Just last November Wheatley told Jamaica's Lower House that sanctions issued by US President Donald Trump against Venezuela, via executive order in August, had placed the operation of Petrojam under the microscope of overseas financial institutions. 
Payments to and from Petrojam were subjected to 'enhanced due diligence' by primary financiers/suppliers of lines of credit, as well as intermediary banks, pending clarification on whether the executive order was applicable to Jamaica. 
Also, because of the due diligence, payments to Venezuela from Jamaica under the 2001 Caracas agreement, and other loan agreements which were due and payable to the South American country were withheld by the US Federal Reserve. 
“Although those funds were ultimately released, explanations and proof of business transactions have now become the standard requirement for all transactions by the banks, occasioning significant process delays,” Wheatley said at the time. 
In response the Government, through Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, sought the intervention of the US State Department. In September last year, she informed the US Assistant Secretary of State that Petrojam – though part-owned by PDVSA – is in fact a Jamaican registered public company controlled by the Jamaican Government via its 51-per cent stake. 
But the company continued to suffer as a result of due diligence from local and foreign institutions despite the US Office of Foreign Asset Control sympathising with the Government, according to an earlier Observer report. 
Meanwhile, PDVSA – which bought its stake in Petrojam in 2008 with US$63.5 million – has defaulted on its financial obligations. In November, the oil company and Venezuela both failed to make US$237 million in payments on bonds due 2025 and 2026 – even after a 30-day grace period – resulting in the downgrade from rating agency Standard and Poor's (S&P). Around the same time PDVSA also lost its stake in a Cuban oil refinery and a storage tank lease in The Bahamas. 
According to another Bloomberg report dated December 21, 2017, it is estimated that PDVSA owes about US$14 billion to bondholders with instruments maturing between 2018 and 2020.
Source: Jamaica Observer

Can you believe the national leadership are so shortsighted and naive that they inadvertently placed the nation's sole petroleum refinery in a position where it falls under a US sanction that is placed on a foreign government? They didn't see the turbulent waters between the USA and Venezuela, from the days when Chavez was at the helm? Now they are “aggressively” in pursuit of buying back total ownership, now that the tidal wave is beating at Petrojam's door? Why didn't they aggressively protect Petrojam from being sold in the first place? Are they aggressively protecting The Goat Islands from being sold to China, or they are much too shortsighted and naive to see anything wrong with that? They don't see the turbulent waters between the USA and China, and the threat to our sovereignty? Jamaica must be in love with economic (and social and political) tidal waves.

The Goat Islands (Great Goat Island & Little Goat Island). Image: Jamaica Observer / Max Earle.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Jamaica Police: Modernisation & Transformation

Jamaica Constabulary Force Highway Patrol. Image: Jamaica Gleaner

In the news:
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen in his throne speech at the ceremonial opening of Parliament completed a short while ago gave a rundown of legislative measures for which the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)-led administration will be seeking approval. 
These legislative measures include the Police Service Act, which will replace the Constabulary Force Act & provide for the modernisation and transformation of the Force “into a modern intelligence-led police service that ensures citizen security, with stronger systems of administration, management and internal discipline”. Read more.
Source: Jamaica Observer

Long overdue. Can't be done soon enough. And while we're at it, remember to add bounty hunters to the mix of law enforcers. Let's take the profit out of committing crime, and put the profit into fighting crime.

A bounty hunter is a person who captures fugitives and criminals for a monetary reward (bounty). The occupation, also known as bail enforcement agent, bail agent, recovery agent, bail recovery agent, or fugitive recovery agent, has historically existed in many parts of the world. However, today, it is found almost exclusively in parts of the United States and the Philippines,[1] its former commonwealth, as the practice is illegal under the laws of most other countries.

Source: Wikipedia

Instead of news reports like the one below, we would be reading about an increase in suspects being taken in for a bounty.

Escapee found tied up under bridge in Tivoli 
One male prisoner who escaped from the Denham Town Lock-up in September 2016 is back in Police custody after he was found in Tivoli Gardens, Kingston on Tuesday. 
He is 27-year-old Kevin Thomas otherwise called 'Tattan' or 'Tafari', of McKenzie Drive, Tivoli Gardens in the parish who was charged with Breaches of the Firearms Act. 
Thomas was found under a bridge with his hands and feet bound. The police were alerted and he was taken to hospital for treatment and is now under police guard.

Source: The Star

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Jamaica partners with South Africa on Science and Research. How about Security and Defence?

A radar system. Source: defenceWeb

In the news:
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Jamaica and the Republic of South Africa are to sign a Commercial Agreement which will see businesses in both countries collaborating on nutraceuticals, research and development. 
This was stated by Charge D’Affaires at the South African High Commission Phillip Riley, while addressing a National Commission on Science and Technology (NCST) Symposium held on November 30 at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston. 
The agreement will be signed in few days during a visit to South Africa by Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley and Director General at NCST, Professor Errol Morrison.
Source: Jamaica Observer

That's all good, but why stop there? How about also partnering on national security and defence? Dr Wheatley you need to nudge the Security Minister Robert Montague, and remind him of this comment:
The Minister informed that the Administration is also looking at establishing an islandwide radar network “to cover every square inch of our coastline and much of the marine space”.
Source: JIS

We should engage the South Africans in regards to purchasing some surplus radar equipment. It's in the news that they plan on replacing some systems with newer ones. The security minister is making the most of used cars for the police, so how about some used radar equipment for the army as well? If the South Africans are willing, let's cut a deal.

From the article "SA needs more radars for border safeguarding"
In Crous’s view, the SAAF would require 50 primary, static and medium radars to monitor and safeguard the borders. “The amount of sensors required is substantially more than what the air force currently has. It will require a very different set of resources.” 
Some good news is in the form of Project Chutney, which aims to replace some mobile and fixed air defence radars operated by the South Africa Air Force. Additional funding has been allocated for this in the 2018/19 financial year.
Source: defenceWeb 

Friday, 20 January 2017

Jamaica Acquires Maritime Surveillance Aircraft


KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — The Government is to acquire a surveillance aircraft as part of a raft of new measures to strengthen the country’s border-protection system. 
This was disclosed by Minister of National Security, Robert Montague, during a press briefing at his Oxford Road offices in St Andrew on Wednesday. 
He said the Government “has taken a very conscious decision that we are going to invest heavily in national security to ensure citizens’ safety and security”.  
He informed that the aircraft, which has already been purchased and will be in the island by July, will not become operational until early next year, “because we have to build specialised surveillance equipment and fit it on to that aircraft”. 
In the meantime, the minister informed that Jamaica is to acquire an additional naval ship, outfitted with a helicopter, from the United Kingdom (UK) early next month. 
 “This will not only assist us in dominating the marine environment but will also assist with search and rescue (efforts),” he said. 
A vessel was recently procured through the Jamaica Customs Agency. 
Additionally, the minister noted that following bilateral meetings with the United States Government, both countries have agreed to share intelligence “because a lot of the traffic in our waters is being monitored by the United States navy and coast guard”. 
He noted that through these and other measures, in collaboration with key trading partners, including Canada,  the Government “will be providing sufficient dominance of our marine space to do search and rescue, stop the flow of drugs, stop the flow of guns and, most importantly, to protect our fishing resources”. 
The minister informed that the Administration is also looking at establishing an islandwide radar network “to cover every square inch of our coastline and much of the marine space”. 
 “(With this network) whether it is a man on a raft, or two men in a little canoe, or (several) people in a big ship, we will have sight of them once they come within a certain distance of the Jamaican coastline,” he said.
This announcement is a positive development. It is commendable when the security minister recognizes the need for electronic surveillance and other equipment to strengthen border security. Nevertheless, I have a few gripes:
He informed that the aircraft, which has already been purchased and will be in the island by July, will not become operational until early next year, “because we have to build specialised surveillance equipment and fit it on to that aircraft”.
Really? Why buy an aircraft that needs to then be fitted with equipment when there are out-of-box solutions available? There are the AHRLAC, the LH-10 Guardian, the Britten-Norman Defender and the RC-208 Caravan etc. It will be interesting to see what they've bought, and then spend more money to outfit. One glaring omission from the shopping list: unmanned aerial vehicles.

Clockwise from bottom left: RC-208, AHRLAC, LH-10 and the Britten-Norman Defender
In the meantime, the minister informed that Jamaica is to acquire an additional naval ship, outfitted with a helicopter, from the United Kingdom (UK) early next month.
Right on the heels of trading in three Stan Patrol vessels for two newer versions, the minister says a third and much bigger ship is to join the mission. One with a helipad. Are we talking about a corvette-class warship here? Like the one shown below? I don't think the JDF is in need of a seaborne helicopter platform, but they do need amphibious capability (Combat Boat 90) and at least one air base, so they can stop operating out of civil airports.

Corvette warship
Corvette-class warship
The minister informed that the Administration is also looking at establishing an islandwide radar network “to cover every square inch of our coastline and much of the marine space”.
A game changer if this is accomplished. Quite a long shot with our budgetary constraints but it's not impossible. There is also another network that is needed: a network of spies. The security minister should also look at expanding human intelligence.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Border Protection: Radiation Alert!

Jamaica Customs authorities have revealed that in the last 13 months, tests conducted at the nation's ports have confirmed the presence of higher-than-normal levels of radiation in two shipments from Japan.

The most recent case, according to Assistant Commissioner of Customs Velma Ricketts, came last month when a trans-shipment container carrying used motor-vehicle parts destined for Guyana was scanned at the Kingston Container Terminal and its radiation levels was determined to be "elevated".

The first case involved a minibus imported by a local used-car dealer in November 2012.

"The JCA [Jamaica Customs Agency] has been on high alert since the earthquake affected Japan," Ricketts said in an emailed response to queries by The Gleaner. More

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Geothermal and Energy Security

Regarding Jamaica's energy security, is geothermal the answer?

From CVM-TV (Skip to 16:34 into the video newscast):
An abnormal occurrence in a community just outside Discovery Bay, St Ann has prompted calls for the country’s geological authorities to investigate what has been described as strange substances resembling smoke at high temperature rising from the ground. For residents of Queenhythe, a community just outside Discovery Bay in St Ann something odd is happening. On the compound of an old great house they have been noticing smoke rising from underneath the surface and it’s not the burning of charcoal according to the people. More
In the follow-up on this story a National Environment and Planning Agency official explains the presents of a hot spring beneath the surface. Skip to 18:57 into the video newscast.

From The Gleaner:
The 12 sites originally identified as potential geothermal energy sources have been narrowed to six as the feasibility studies unfold. 
Geologist Krishna Vaswani and partners in the project announced in January, aim to produce electricity from heat trapped underground, for the first time in Jamaica. 
Construction of the 15mw geothermal plant has a "likely" start date of 2016, but the final timeline will be determined by the research, the geologist said. Work on the plant should start in a year and a half after the research is concluded, he indicated. 
"We've done quite a bit of feasibility studies," said Vaswani, but he declined to name the six sites. 
He told Wednesday Business that the sites hold "potential" reserves, and that establishing the "proven" levels would happen at a later date. More