Heads of government of CARICOM did not mince their words at last Monday and Tuesday crime Symposium in Trinidad and Tobago. They all agreed that crime, especially violent crime, and in particular gun-related crimes, must be tackled collectively as each territory experiences the same volatile environment illegal guns and illegal drugs in a country can create.
The Heads of government seems to be singing from the same song sheet when each came to speak about the levels of violent and gun-related crimes in their respective country.
The Heads gave the impression that the time was past due for the Caribbean region to act as a collective group to eradicate gun-related crimes in their part of the world.
Jamaica’s Andrew Holness touched on that and went further, calling for the region to lobby the United States, in particular, to assist CARICOM member states in the war on guns in the same manner the region had and continues to assist the United States in the war on drugs.
Said Holness, in describing the present situation: “the greatest unfairness that we have diverted resources from other areas in which we could have spent it to fund and support a war on drugs…There seems to be no interest in stopping the other part of the trade, which are the guns.”
The prime minister made it clear that guns fuel crimes, are an accelerant and are needed to protect drugs which are transshipped through the borders of CARICOM member states.
Saint Lucia has been going through that experience for some time now, fighting to control an upsurge in serious, violent crime committed mostly with the gun. The statistics are mind boggling for a 238 square mile country with a population of approximately 180,000.
The island in 2016 recorded 30 homicides, which doubled in 2017 to 60. Four years later, in 2021, despite the policies and laws put in place to combat violent crime on the island, 74 homicides were recorded. There seems to be no end in sight to violent, gun related crimes in Saint Lucia for this year, as already the number of homicides stands at 28, an average of seven killings per month, or almost two per week, the majority of which have been fire-armed related involving young people both as victims and perpetrators.
Seeing that the region does not manufacture guns, it follows, ineluctably, that the guns are coming from outside the region, particularly from North America, as noted by the Heads of government of CARICOM. How then can the guns be stopped from entering the region?
“So collectively, as the leaders of CARICOM, we must raise our voice on this (entry of guns into the region). We must appeal to our friends in the North to increase their efforts to prevent the flow of guns into the region,” Holness said.
He also made the point that the nations of CARICOM should not negate their own responsibility in protecting their respective ports of entry.
We agree with Barbados’ Mia Mottley when she said that it would be an injustice if delegates left the Symposium without adopting decisions to be implemented across the region.
The unspoken theme ‘we are all in this together’, which reverberated throughout the two days of the Symposium, was brought home when Prime Minister Pierre reminded the other leaders that Saint Lucia had to call in the Regional Security System to help in quelling an escalated crime situation in Vieux Fort that featured violent gun-related crimes almost on a daily basis.
With the recognition that violence stalks the region and has tentacles in all the CARICOM member states, and the resolve by the leaders to do something about it, we feel hopeful that the Symposium was not another talk shop.
We expect, in due order, a comprehensive plan to tackle this scourge in all member states of CARICOM, and a willingness by member states to reach out and assist each other with strategies to reduce violent and gun-related crimes in each respective territory.