KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica’s Prime Minister, the Hon Bruce Golding, on Sunday (July 4) urged his CARICOM colleagues to continue to press for more effective international measures to stem the flow of guns into the region.
Mr. Golding was speaking at the over two-hour long opening ceremony for the 31st Regular Meeting of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), at the Half Moon Village, Montego Bay. He assumed leadership of the 15-member community for 2010/11, following Haiti’s inability to take up the leadership after January’s devastating earthquake.
“We must continue to press for more effective measures to stem the flow of guns into the Caribbean, because not only are they the symbol and toll of criminal organizations, but they filter down to itinerant criminals with grave consequences for the peace and safety of our countries,” Mr. Golding said.
He added that it should be clear that fighting crime is not just a law enforcement exercise, but was also a major development issue. He cautioned that rooting out criminal gangs, that have embedded themselves in communities, will leave a huge space which, if not quickly filled by meaningful programmes that empower people, provide training, create jobs, generate new opportunities and offer hope, will shortly thereafter be filled by a new, smarter generation of criminals.
“Social intervention and transformation is the development dimension of the fight against crime that we dare not ignore,” Mr. Golding said.
He noted that, while the economies of the region have been severely dislocated by the global recession, the international community has largely overlooked the plight of “small, highly indebted, middle income countries” which do not pose a threat to the global economy. However, he said that the global economy poses a threat to these countries, and these circumstances have made the region more vulnerable to the threats posed by organised crime.
“Crime does not exist in a vacuum. It thrives in an environment in which poverty is prevalent and hope and opportunities limited. We are located along one of the principal routes for the trafficking of illicit drugs,” the Prime Minister recalled.
“We lack the institutional capacity to secure our borders, patrol our waters and mount an effective counter-offensive against the powerful narcotics trade. The infestation of our societies and the corruption of our institutions present a challenge to which we must respond, but one that requires resources we do not have,” he pointed out.
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 mechanisms. But, he said, there was a need to do much more.
“The transnational nature of organised crime requires much greater collaboration among us and between us and our international partners, with equal emphasis being given to the supply, transit and demand sides of the international drug trade,” he stated.
The CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting ends July 7.