Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | February 1, 2009
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Jamaicans causing havoc in Saint Maarten
Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer

Keswick Daley being taken into custody by police in Saint Maarten recently. He was on the run for almost a month following his escape from police custody on December 24 last year. He had been wanted in connection with a series of armed robberies on the island. - File

WITH THEIR nationality being tarnished by a violent few in recent times, law-abiding, hard-working Jamaicans on the island of Saint Maarten are finding it harder to get some jobs on that island. Others fear they are being unfairly targeted by police brought in to help curb the island's growing crime problem, The Sunday Gleaner has been told, despite comments to the contrary from minister of justice for the Netherlands Antilles, David Dick.

Since last year, the tiny Dutch colony, with a population of about 60,000, has been hit by a series of armed robberies. Many of these are believed to have been committed by illegal immigrants living on the island, many of them Jamaican. About two weeks ago, two of three men found guilty of a series of robberies committed in the island last October are Jamaican. They were each sentenced to three-year prison terms.

jailed or deported

Also, during the last half of 2008, more than a dozen Jamaicans were either arrested and jailed or deported, having been accused of a variety or crimes. Then in December, Keswick Daley, a Jamaican who was employed by a security firm was arrested by the police as a suspect in several major armed robberies. He escaped police custody on Christmas Eve and was recaptured recently. Daley is to be tried on several counts of armed robbery on the Dutch side of the island and when those cases have been completed, he faces further prosecution for alleged robberies committed on the French side of the island.

Since that time, other Jamaicans looking for work at security companies are reportedly finding it hard to get jobs. Marsha Thomas, who heads the Jamaican Social and Heritage Foundation in St Maarten, believes Daley's arrest is making the operators of the island's security firms think twice about hiring her countrymen. "The majority of the security services are tightening up," she said, adding that it was discrimination. "We need to remind people that we are not all bad; they should not use one to judge everybody."

Recently, a Jamaican truck driver, Radcliffe Moncrieffe, was badly beaten by police who raided his home in the middle of the night. He reported that the police beat him in front of his young son, breaking three of his ribs. Moncrieffe, who has since hired a lawyer, has been a legal resident of the island for 14 years. Thomas told the media on the island that all the Jamaicans she had spoken to about what had been happening said they were scared. She added that the attack on Moncrieffe was uncalled for.

illegal residents

But according to sources inside the St Maarten police force, the Moncrieffe incident should not be seen as an attack against Jamaicans. The source tells The Sunday Gleaner that the police are focusing on illegal residents in general and not on any specific nationality. There is, though, the perception that Jamaicans are more "notorious in carrying out their crimes".

"No nationality is being tar-geted," said Minister Dick, promising to look into the situation when he returned to the Antilles from a trip to Holland. "We carry out our immigration controls according to the law, but we do not target any nationality."

Those claims are supported in part by Lisa Brown, a Jamaican journalist living on the island.

"It would be unfair to and inaccurate to say that Jamaicans are being targeted," she said. "But given the track record of many Jamaicans who come to St Maarten, many are either involved in crime or are constantly on the run for residing here illegally. hence, there is a level of hostility that always surfaces, not only from the police, but from some locals," Brown added.

However, she pointed out that there were several Jamaicans living in St Maarten who were in top positions in large firms and many other natives who had earned a respectable name by making an honest living and abiding by the laws of the country.

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