Crime still a grave concern for CARICOM

Honourable Bruce Golding

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) – The security of the region is still a matter of great priority for CARICOM leaders who are gathered in Montego Bay, Jamaica, at their 31st Regular Meeting to once again deal with several critical issues affecting the region.

Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community the Honourable Orrette Bruce Golding whose country Jamaica is seemingly plagued by crime and violence raised the issue of organised crime, including illicit drug trafficking and illegal guns as one that had been made even more acute by the global financial crisis.

At the official opening ceremony on Sunday, Prime Minister Golding said Crime did not exist in a vacuum but “thrives in an environment in which poverty is prevalent and hope and opportunities limited.” Noting the region’s vulnerable position as a transhipment point ‘sandwiched’ between the largest suppliers and the largest buyers of illicit drugs, Chairman Golding lamented that the Caribbean “lacked the institutional capacity to secure our borders, patrol our waters and mount an effective counter- offensive against powerful narcotics trade.”

He added that although an urgent response was required from CARICOM leaders, they lacked the resources it required to do so. And in this regard, Mr Golding welcomed the Regional Security System in the eastern Caribbean, as well as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative recently launched by U.S. President Barak Obama, which he described as important crime fighting mechanisms, but added that there was a need for greater collaboration among CARICOM member states and between international partners and CARICOM and stressed that greater attention must be paid to the supply, transit and demand sides of the international drug trade.

“We cannot be given an unfair share of the burden in combating illicit drugs,” he lamented.

In this context therefore he appealed to CARICOM leaders to press for more effective measures to stem the flow of guns into the Caribbean, asserting that , not only are guns the symbol and tool of criminal organizations, but they filter down to itinerant criminals with grave consequences for the peace and safety of our countries.”

Noting that crime fighting was both a law enforcement exercise and a major development issue, he warned that in the process of ‘rooting out criminal elements,’ governments must endeavour to close the social gaps with “meaningful programmes that empower people, provide training, create jobs, generate new opportunities and offer hope,” in an effort to ensure that younger and smarter criminals did not mushroom.

“Social intervention and social transformation is the development dimension of the fight against crime that we dare not ignore,” Mr. Golding said.

His call was supported by HE Ban Ki-moon – the very first United Nations Secretary-General to address a CARICOM Summit – who asserted that crime was tearing at the social fabric of the Caribbean, and reiterated his commitment to supporting further initiatives to address gun control and illicit trafficking.

He commended the partnership between CARICOM and the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which had spawned a joint crime prevention action plan designed to reduce the demand for illicit drugs, and which the CARICOM Secretary-General had noted would prove to be pivotal in mainstreaming crime prevention into human and social programmes such as health, education, youth, culture and gender, as well as the justification for budgetary allocations to facilitate those developments.

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