March 1, 2004 – When it meets Friday on St. Croix, the Senate committee dealing with homeland security will take testimony on "details regarding Virgin Islands capability to respond to various forms of terrorism and other security threats looming on the horizon," a release issued Monday by Sen. Lorraine Berry stated.
Berry chairs the Public Safety, Judiciary, Homeland Security and Justice Committee, which was created at the beginning of the 25th Legislature. The panel is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Friday in the Legislature building in Frederiksted.
The "security threats," according to her release, "include the onslaught on our shores of maritime Haitian refugees and the probability of increased, concentrated illicit narcotics trade due to extensive political changes in Bolivia and Colombia."
Since political turmoil erupted into widespread violence in Haiti in February, St. John has seen at least two instances of undocumented Haitian nationals arriving on its shores. Twenty-one illegal aliens were apprehended last Wednesday on the island, and authorities said that most of the 12 men and nine women were from Haiti. In the predawn hours of Sunday, authorities said, about 20 persons in a boat made landfall on St. John; five, all Haitians, were arrested; the others got away.
According to the Senate calendar, topics to be addressed at the Friday hearing include funding allocations in accordance with federal homeland security mandates. The agenda also includes consideration of two bills — the Virgin Islands Homeland Security Act and the Commercial Motor Vehicle Act.
The release said Berry has written to Adjutant General Cleave McBean, who heads the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency; Harold Baker, Vitema executive director; and Eddy Charles, the governor's drug policy adviser, saying that Washington mandates and expenditures of federal homeland security funds allotted to the territory "demand accountability relative to the Virgin Islands response capability."
With regard to the motor vehicle legislation, Berry's release said the bill addresses "serious issues regarding commercial trucking vehicles weighing at least 10,001 pounds" and that "recent accidents have highlighted the importance of a regulated inspection practice."
Police Commissioner Elton Lewis and his staff, Lt. William Harvey, and representatives of the trucking and taxi industries have been invited to provide input on this matter, Berry's release stated.
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