Saturday, February 24, 2018

Crime in Caricom and PM’s role

 NO HEAD of Government or Minister of National Security of the Caribbean Community would wish to be in the position of Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, when she addresses in a closed-door session, her colleagues at the current 35th Caricom Summit in  Antigua and Barbuda on the depressing state of ‘crime and security’ in  our region.

Nevertheless, as the Community’s Head of Government with lead portfolio responsibility for matters pertaining to crime and security, the Prime Minister would have the unenviable task of presenting such an assessment amid frightening rates of murders—including awesome gang-related assassinations and general criminality—at the domestic level.        

There was a period when Jamaica—bearing the unflattering media-created image as “murder capital” of the Caribbean—would have been most reluctant to catalogue its murder rates and gang-related gun-killings and robberies.  

Currently, with Guyana in an also unenviable third spot among Caricom’s crime-plagued states, Trinidad and Tobago bears the horrible burden of at least a murder a day, counting some 213 for the year by this past weekend with the shooting death on Sunday night of a 32-year-old Defence Force soldier, L/Cpl Kayode Thomas.

Truth is, on a per capita basis, all 14 independent member states of our community are being afflicted with hitherto unknown levels of gun-related-killings, robberies and other acts of criminality. 

The situation is troubling enough for the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP)  to make a spirited call at its annual general meeting in Port of Spain this past May to become “fully engaged” with the region’s governments and judiciary to, among other objectives, “expedite court appearances” by those charged with various crimes.

The ACCP has passionately argued that victims of crime as well as witnesses are suffering from the mounting backlog of cases and it needs to be borne in mind that both “are at the heart of the criminal justice system…”

Question of relevance at this time is whether there has been any specific initiative, either at the level of Caricom’s crime and security mechanism—located here in Port of Spain—or, at a national level between the Minister of National Security and Police Commissioner to reflect on the outcome of the  ACCP’s May meeting?

It would also be useful to learn whether an information-based updated assessment of crime and security challenges has been prepared for discussion and action at the current Heads of Government Conference in Antigua?

After all, with the spectre of gang-related assassinations and murders and other menacing acts of criminality reducing a few Caricom states to “killing fields”, where women, policemen and soldiers are among the victims, this is not a time for mere angry threats from either ministers of National Security or the high command of police services. 

Apart from the burning issue of regional crime and security challenges, the current Caricom summit would also be expected to come forward in its communiqué by Friday, with some  precise information on the extent of progress made since their 34th conference to bring us less far off from achieving the much-vaunted promises to transform Caricom into a seamless regional economy (the CSME).

Additionally, seek to offer some overdue practical substance to the oft-expressed official commitment to hassle-free intra-regional movement by citizens of the community. More so now, against the backdrop of the historic ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice in the case of the Jamaican national Shanique Myrie vs the Barbados Government. 

Foreign policy issues would, of necessity, require some clarity in Caricom-USA relations in view of frequent allusions to unnecessary interferences from Washington and, relatedly, the repeated call for a long-sought request by community leaders for a summit in Washington with President Barack Obama.

• Rickey Singh is a noted 

Barbados-based Caribbean journalist.