By Elesha George
Concerns over security threats in the Commonwealth of Dominica has caused the Customs and Excise Division in Antigua and Barbuda to initiate protocol safety measures.
OBSERVER media received a leaked internal memo which asked Customs officers to comply with a request to fully examine both people and goods coming out of that country.
The memo, dated November 19th 2019, reads “effective immediately, all passengers and goods coming out of Dominica via all ports of entry including Transit Shed, DWH, Air Cargo Shed or baggage section must be subject to 100 per cent examination”.
Comptroller of Customs in Antigua and Barbuda, Raju Boddu told our newsroom that this is a standard internal practice whenever there is a perceived security threat in CARICOM states.
“In these types of situations, we need to be cautious and look out for miscreants and the harmful goods that cross our borders,” he said, adding that other regional countries had been asked to implement these measures.
The comptroller could not divulge the exact reason for the heightened security but shared that: “It could be direct results from riots in Dominica, it could be based on some internet reports that we would have gotten, it could be anything but I cannot reveal to the public”.
He said that there could also be a “bigger problem”.
Boddu made it clear, however, that the department was not preventing anyone from travelling to and from Antigua and Barbuda, but said: “We have many brothers and sisters from CARICOM living here, including Dominicans, and their safety and security is very much our business.”
It is not a blanket examination, he stated, explaining “we have a system of risk assessment. We would look for the plausible risk assessments which were done in the past and we also depend on the alerts from our member countries within the CARICOM”.
He further stated that as Customs departments across the region continue to communicate through secure networks, alerting each state of possible threats to security, changes will be issued on the treatment of goods and people from the “Nature Isle”.
“We are not stopping anybody coming and we are very much aware of the protocols regarding the movement of persons and goods. We are not averse to any of our CARICOM brothers and sisters; we’re all one,” he stated.
It is not clear how long these measures will be maintained, but according to Boddu, “as the situation improves and as the community of border security agencies keep talking, we will know exactly when to stop it and to ease up”.
The measures follow days of protest and fights between law enforcement and civilians in Dominica, regarding electoral reform and cleaning the voters list. Protestors had given His Excellency President Charles Savarin until 3 pm on Tuesday, November 19th, 2019, to postpone Nomination Day and to address their concerns.
Many residents in Dominica are worried over the violent rhetoric which has been spurred by upcoming elections in the country. Many fear continued protests and possible riots approaching the December 6th election and after.