CARICOM leaders agree on counter-terrorism strategy
PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, Feb 28, CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have adopted a regional counter-terrorism strategy at their inter-sessional summit that ended here on Tuesday.
The leaders also agreed that the member countries would table in their respective parliaments the legislation by July 4, this year to support the strategy and that an effective monitoring and evaluation process should be put in place to determine the region’s success in addressing this critical matter.
The strategy was developed by the Trinidad-based Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) which, in consultation with its stakeholders and regional and international partners, will review the document biennially to consider updating it to respond to the evolving terrorism landscape.
The summit also agreed that all member states should enact legislation related to the Advance Cargo Information System (ACIS) and Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) to assist counter-terrorism efforts, among other security matters, and to share information on crime and violence among themselves in a more consistent manner.
Crime and security was among the main agenda items during the two-day summit and the leaders agreed that IMPACS will create an intra-regional task force comprising experts, to examine and suggest innovative regional solutions to combat the issue regionally.
Meanwhile, St. Lucia’s Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, has described the summit as being ‘very fruitful.’
“I thought that the prime ministers came very serious. I think that we are all frustrated with how long it traditionally takes to get things done on decisions that are made in CARICOM,”
Chastanet told reporters on his return to his homeland.
‘I think the Prime Ministers wanted to be reassured that not only were we making decisions, but time lines were given for implementation,’ Chastanet said, adding “‘I also believe that people want to hold everybody much more accountable for the decisions we are making and I think there is a greater sense of urgency is building up”,
According to Chastanet, the issues of climate change, crime and the regional marketing campaign were at the forefront of the summit.
“Other areas like the CCJ (Caribbean Court of Justice), in which there was a general commitment by a lot of countries initially to be able to join and yet how many years afterwards, that has not happened,’ Chastanet said, commenting also on the report done by the former Jamaica prime minister Bruce Golding on his country’s relationship with CARICOM and the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM).
Golding chaired a CARICOM Review Commission which made a number of proposals aimed at addressing the structural and organisational deficiencies in the regional organisation.
Chastanet said the leaders did not get a chance to discuss the paper in any formal detail.
“But I think there will be a meeting that will be taking place in July when the heads of government meeting will be taking place in Jamaica and some time will be set aside to discuss it.
“But I think that the document – the paper is extremely timely and it really is an important crossroad for CARICOM to make the decision as to what we are going to do. Are we going to stick together and see the benefit of sticking together, or are we going to change what we are doing?’ he added.
Bahamas Foreign Affairs Minister, Darren Henfield, told reporters Tuesday night that “I believe the Community is in a position to determine a couple of matters”.
Henfield, who headed the delegation after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis left early, said that the leaders had examined disaster preparedness and response with the Bahamas being able to”speak to what we experienced …during the last hurricane cycle where we had to evacuate 1200 Bahamians from MICAL (and); where we were able to evacuate some 300 from Bimini.
“We in this region live in the Hurricane Belt. Hurricanes are a part of the natural environment of the Caribbean. It is anticipated that with climate change, these systems will become more frequent; they will become more ferocious, and so we have to be able to sustain ourselves.
“We have to be able to respond after they have hit us and we need to put ourselves in a position, as a people, to be able to do most of this ourselves,” Henfield said, adding that discussions also centred on the availability of regional assets to respond to natural disasters such as hurricanes.
“We also spoke to the importance of CDEMA (Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency) whose officials travelled to The Bahamas and visited Ragged Island following the passage of Maria, and we spoke about shoring-up CDEMA to put it in a position to do its work as we know it’s required to be done.”
Henfield said regional leaders also addressed the possibility of the acquisition of helicopters in order to be able to “move about rather quickly” in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
“When you look at what happened in Dominica, when you look at Barbuda, you know the entire infrastructure was disrupted.”
He said the issue of crime was discussed in caucus adding “crime is prevalent throughout the region not only in The Bahamas and we must look at ways to curb this blight on our tourism economy, potentially, if it is not checked. We also talked about counter-terrorism initiatives.
“ It is my belief that the two are associated in a sense that we have a lot of young people who feel disenfranchised, who feel disassociated from society, who are quite vulnerable to those who would encourage them into a life of criminality,” he added.