Letters to the Editor

Truth in travel advisories against Ja

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Dear Editor,

Countries like Jamaica that are not as well-resourced, in terms of money and the proliferation of scientific talent as the developed nations such as United States, often benefit from the public agencies of those developed nations. For example, reports and guidance from agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) in the United States readily come to mind.

One wonders if the US State Department can be treated as an unbiased or trustworthy agent in terms of its output on travel advisories around the world. We can form our own views based on how we consider the recent travel advisory for Jamaica issued by the US State Department. A partial checklist of its April 15, 2019 advice to its citizens is as follows:

• Exercise increased caution in Jamaica due to crime as some areas have increased risk. Violent crimes such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides are common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts.

• The local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. Emergency services vary throughout the island.

• US government personnel are prohibited from travelling to the following areas and are prohibited from using public buses, and from driving outside of prescribed areas of Kingston at night.

• Due to criminal violence and shootings, do not travel to Cassava Piece; downtown Kingston, defined as between Mountain View Avenue and Hagley Park Road, and south of Half-Way-Tree and Old Hope roads. Downtown Kingston includes Trench Town, Tivoli Gardens, and Arnett Gardens. Also, avoid Grant's Pen and Standpipe.

* As violence and shootings occur regularly in Spanish Town, do not travel there.

Not to be left out or outdone, depending on one's sensibilities or acceptance of reality, is our second city of Montego Bay. Due to the regular occurrence of violence and shootings in some areas of Montego Bay, these areas are to be avoided, namely Canterbury, Clavers Street, Flanker, Hart Street, Norwood, and Rose Heights.

And to drive home the point, general guidance or warning is also provided as follows:

• Avoid walking or driving at night; avoid public buses, secluded places or situations.

• Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.

• Be aware of your surroundings and keep a low profile.

So, how ought we to treat with this advice? Should we react with a huff, as did our Government years ago when confronted with a poor grade for addressing human trafficking? Or should we accept this advice, much like we respond to the CDC's advice on vaccinations and the FDA's guidelines to pregnant women on the risk of mercury in fish and shellfish?

For us locals, we can think to appropriately discount the harsh assessment by foreigners of our state of affairs. But while we do so, we should be bold enough to reckon with whatever morsel of truth is contained in the travel advisory.

Christopher Pryce


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