A Senate lawmaker has demanded the nation’s chief law enforcement officer back off from claims that Customs officers are allowing illegal guns through ports of entry.
Senator Caswell Franklyn issued the challenge to Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith, in a bid to clear the image of “easy to blame” Customs officers, some of whom he represents through his Unity Trade Union.
“Recently we’ve heard the Commissioner of Police claiming that guns have been coming through the ports.
I’ve asked him on more than one occasion to produce proof, because all that is doing is putting people against custom officers without actual proof.”
Speaking during debate on the Customs Amendment (No.3) Bill, an irate Senator Franklyn, the general secretary of Unity, said the fact that no arrests had been made proved police had no such evidence.
He instead argued that illegal firearms were being brought into the country by fishing boats.
The senator declared: “The Customs are telling you that these guns are coming in fishing boats.
“People are meeting the fishermen at sea and forcing them to bring in guns… because there is no security for the fishing boat, fishing boats come and go as they please.”
The outspoken legislator maintained that the security measures in place at regional and international airports, as well as at the Grantley Adams International Airport were too sophisticated for illegal guns to pass through unnoticed.
He said: “If you brought in a gun in your suitcase, it is scanned at the port of embarkation… before it goes on the airplane.
“Now how can a gun get into that suitcase and come to Barbados, because then it is scanned here in Barbados too?”
“It is virtually impossible for customs officers at the airport to allow the entry of guns through baggage, but people keep blaming them and they are not looking at the real source.
“I know they are easy to blame but leave them alone and let them do their job.”
He said as a result of accusations, a situation had arisen at the airport where police officers had now taken over some Customs duties.
But Senator Franklyn declared that police had no lawful authority to do so.
He said: “Police have taken over customs at the airport.
“Police go into the Customs area and decide who will be scanned, but they have no authority in there.
“And worse yet, when Customs officers check baggage and the passengers are going outside, the police stop them, carry them to the station and question them as to which customs officer checked them, without any lawful authority because the people are not accused of any crime and no report has been made against them.”
Senator Franklyn said the development was also putting a strain on the relationships between customs and police.
He maintained that police officers needed to keep out of the airport arrivals hall “because they are not supposed to be there”.
The veteran trade unionist said as while he had heard about a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) being signed between Customs and Police, “it was a bunch of nonsense”.
Senator Franklyn also threw cold water on the possibility of customs officers being forced to take lie detector tests, declaring that the only way this would happen was if members of the Cabinet took the same test.
He said: “í understand that there is a move afoot for customs officers to get lie detector tests. My position on that is that I would advise them to go and take these lie detector tests immediately after the Cabinet.
“When the Cabinet takes lie detector tests, I will advise all customs officers to follow suit, but not before….
“But not one customs officer will take a lie detector test other than the one that is taking it now until the Cabinet leads. They will lead by example.”