Pubdate: Tue, 31 Aug 2004
Source: Jamaica Observer (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2004 The Jamaica Observer Ltd,
Author: Rickey Singh


Caricom Needs A Regional Crime Plan

RATHER than squabble over timing and conditionalities for "full engagement" 
with the interim Haitian regime, Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders 
should quickly decide on a revised agenda for the upcoming special summit 
in Port-of-Spain.

This revised agenda must bring to the fore, new ways of combating the 
terrifying crime problem plaguing several member states, including Jamaica.

The Community leaders have approximately nine weeks before the proposed 
November special summit to develop new ideas and form new attitudes for a 
comprehensive collective review of policies and strategies to combat 
serious crimes, and minimise the threats to security.

It is their burden to erase the public impression that they have not been 
sufficiently focused (at their recent inter-sessional and summit meetings) 
for concerted regional responses to the challenges posed by the criminals.

In comparison, that is, to the time and energy these leaders spend on 
political issues, like the Haitian situation, and getting themselves ready 
for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Generally, media briefings on Caricom's crime and security agenda have 
lacked specificities, laden with platitudes, and rarely provide new 
information on initiatives being pursued, without being required to give 
away sensitive intelligence information.

Perhaps the Community leaders could make use of the Port-of-Spain summit to 
show the difference; if, they could first agree to add crime and security 
to CSME-readiness as the two top priorities for their work agenda over two 

The security of our Caricom societies is increasingly coming under serious 
threats from criminals.

In Trinidad and Tobago, where the population remains challenged to avoid 
being numb to nerve-wracking kidnappings for ransom, and killings linked to 
narco-trafficking, gang warfare and other crimes, the President of the 
Republic, Maxwell Richards, considers the country to be "at war," facing an 
"internal enemy".

Here in Jamaica, confronted with endemic illegal drugs, gun-running crimes 
and a shocking murder toll that exceeded 1,000 in 2003, Prime Minister PJ 
Patterson found it necessary last weekend to defend the performance of his 
National Security Minister Peter Phillips, while warning that spiralling 
crime "poses a major danger" to renewal of economic growth.

In Guyana, there are now renewed fears of the resumption of communal terror 
on East Coast villages following some vicious cases of killings, including 
a policeman, and armed robberies that have provoked new demands for joint 
anti-crime operations by the police and army.

The Barbados Surprise

But the country that may provide the surprise for those too focused on 
worse-crime scenarios in countries like Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and 
Guyana, would be Barbados -the major tourism destination of the Eastern 
Caribbean that works methodically to protect its image from being tarnished 
by the plague of criminality.

For every Caribbean state that depends to any significant extent on 
tourism, the crime epidemic is dangerous news. Barbados, Jamaica, The 
Bahamas, St Lucia and Antigua know this only too well.

When, therefore, British and Canadian websites recently posted advisories 
alerting their nationals to reported incidents of rape and armed robberies 
of tourists in Barbados, the country's tourism minister, Noel Lynch, moved 
swiftly to quell any notion that the country was anything but "a very safe 

The minister's anxiety is understandable. But the Barbadian people and 
their Caribbean cousins living there would know that it is certainly no 
longer the "tranquil paradise" of tourist magazine and brochures.

In a just-released report, The National Commission on Law and Order, in 
Barbados notes in a candid, enlightening overview of law enforcement:

"Over the last 25 years, Barbados has been experiencing an unusually high 
number of serious and violent crimes, with murder, armed robberies and 
reckless violence among the youth becoming quite alarming...

"This has been accompanied by excessive involvement in the drug culture, 
both in supporting transshipment operations and in the increasing use of 
illicit drugs across all sections of the society.

"Perhaps the most troublesome feature," the report states, "is the 
frequency of drive-by shootings and the uncontrolled violence among drug 
dealers. This environment has resulted in a considerable fear of crime in 
residential communities and the business sector.."

The work of the commission has coincided with similar bodies, though with 
variations in terms of reference, created by Caricom governments in 
response to a 2002 decision by the Community's Heads of Government to 
establish national commissions on crime, or the broader concept of law and 

If, therefore, we are to be guided by their own statements and public 
outcries on the terrifying crime scenarios in a number of Community states 
- - including this one - then including crime and security for an 
action-oriented discussion at the November summit could prove useful.

Updated assessments from their respective National Security Minister and 
the Regional Task Force on Crime and Security, plus recommendations for 
concerted action from the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police 
could provide the basis for a special working session without affecting 
allotted time for CSME-readiness.

After all, the success of the CSME itself would very much depend on the 
capacity of our governments to have the upperhand on criminals and those 
bent on undermining law and order in our Community states which are working 
towards the realisation of a common economic space.

Our leaders must be seen to be acting in unison and with haste in the war 
against crime rather than engaging in their separate lamentations as the 
criminal underworld poses increasing threats to stability, peace and 
progress in one Caricom state after another.

The just-tabled report in the Barbados Parliament from the National 
Commission on Law and Order offers some very important recommendations that 
could also be taken on board in any regional review on new initiatives on 
crime and security.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart