Minister of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss yesterday heaped scorn on critics of Government’s plan to fingerprint persons leaving and entering the country, as he warned that the move was still on the cards.
During debate on the Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2016, Inniss said, “It is very unfortunate that what should have been appreciated as a national security matter was allowed to be delved into the realm of pure partisan politics.
“That troubled me a bit,” the Member of Parliament for St James South said, while warning, “We cannot take these things lightly.
“We sit here in Barbados and I see lawyers . . . taking the Government to court,” said Inniss, who charged that there were “a few lawyers that would take any and everybody to court, even if they are on four legs, as long as they can get their 15 minutes of fame and pick up a few clients along the way to help them pay their bills”.
His comments came against the backdrop of a lawsuit filed by attorney-at-law and social activist David Comissiong against the move, which was announced by the Immigration Department back in February and was initially scheduled to be introduced on April 1 at the island’s main ports of entry.
However, in the face of strong public objection, the plan was delayed.
Today, Inniss dismissed criticisms of the proposal as nothing more than “unenlightened noise”, while arguing strongly that Barbadians had to face the reality that fingerprinting was the new norm.
Insisting that the measure was in the country’s best interest, the Government spokesman took further issue with opponents who he said had allowed themselves to be fingerprinted abroad without raising an eyebrow, but were now seeking to undermine efforts aimed at securing the country’s borders.
“The reality about it is that we certainly cannot take these matters lightly. Ensuring that those who come into our space, including citizens of Barbados, are fingerprinted is an act that will be done in the best interest of this country, and I think we must all get on board, There really is no harm. The information is not going to any nefarious purpose, but it must all be tied up into enhancing in our security system,” he stressed.
His position was endorsed by Minister of Health John Boyce and Minister of Housing Denis Kellman in their contributions during the pre-lunch session.
Boyce argued that Barbados must be ready for any eventuality and therefore could not hold back from modernizing its legislation and processes.
“Security at borders is absolutely important and it has to be maintained at the highest level,” he warned.
“We have to come face to face with that reality sooner rather than later. It is this type of realization that has to be part of the modern thinking in Barbados, it has to be part of our development programme in Barbados and we have to make sure that our citizens are properly briefed about the objectives we are trying to achieve and that they can work with us to achieve these objectives and, certainly across the aisle [Parliament], we should be of one voice in this regard,” Boyce added.
Kellman was equally adamant that the introduction of fingerprinting was one of the best ways to secure the island’s borders.
“When one considers what is happening in the world, I cannot see how any reasonable person that subjects him or herself to fingerprinting anywhere else in the world can object to it when it comes to the security of one’s country. Everybody knows that when you have open bays and open coastlines that one has to be very careful not to allow itself to be abused by people,” the St Lucy representative said.