Tuesday, March 11, 2014

PM Kamla appeals for unity in CARICOM and support for regional security

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Monday appealed to her CARICOM colleagues to ensure that they fund the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS).

She was speaking in Kingstown, St Vincent at a Caricom inter-sessional conference at which she formally handed over the chairmanship to host PM Ralph Gonzalves, whom she congratulated while pledging "every possible support that he will need".

She highlighted some of her achievements during her tenure, which included the hosting of the CARICOM 40th anniversary summit in Port of Spain.

"Economic challenges which faced Member States and the Region were brought to the top of our agenda and I am delighted that one of the major outcomes was the approval for the establishment of the Commission on the Economy to advise us on solutions that would lead to growth and development," she said.

"Also in July, the Conference of Heads of Government agreed to establish a CARICOM Reparations Commission to shape the Community’s quest for reparations from the former colonial European countries, for native genocide, the trans-Atlantic slave trade and a racialized system of chattel slavery.

"The Executive of the CARICOM Reparations Commission met on December 9, 2013 in Jamaica to define and set in train its plan of action.

"A regional dialogue on persons living with disabilities and special needs was also commenced in July, and by year’s end, a High Level Meeting on the Rights of persons with disabilities in the Caribbean was convened in Haiti.

"It is my hope that this initiative will progress quickly so that we can achieve a fully disability-friendly region," she added.

Persad-Bissessar also raised the issue of the ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic on nationality, which retroactively stripped tens of thousands of Dominicans, mostly of Haitian descent, of citizenship, rendering them stateless and with no recourse to appeal.

"This matter was treated with the highest priority and further to the suspension of the Community’s consideration of the request by the Dominican Republic for membership of CARICOM, the Presidents of the Dominican Republic and Haiti have agreed to establish a Committee to seek a joint solution," she said.

Persad-Bissessar also noted that CARICOM reform has also been "proceeding apace" and that to date, national consultations in all Member States and two Associate Members have been completed. "I look forward to our deliberations on the Summary Outline of the Strategic Framework which will provide the main elements of the Strategic Plan including very importantly, proposed Strategic Priorities for the entire Community."

The Prime Minister told member states T&T has worked hard to build a reputation on good faith and added that this was demonstrated in 2013 during the official visit of US Vice President Joe Biden to Trinidad & Tobago, when several issues affecting US-Caricom relations were addressed with a view to arriving at mutually agreeable solutions.

Among the issues discussed, she said, were the drug trade, citizen security, immigration reform, natural disasters, trade investments and education.

"Similarly, during the historic State visit of the President of the People’s Republic of China, His Excellency President Xi Jinping, in 2013, Trinidad & Tobago also placed high on the agenda the issues of diplomatic and bilateral relations with our region.

"Just last week, I concluded a return official visit to China where issues of trade, medical facilities, agriculture, energy, infrastructure and education were discussed and formed into Memoranda of Understanding which ultimately, will redound to the benefit of CARICOM member States and our friends in Latin America.

"Colleagues will also be happy to know that air transport shall remain a top priority and strategic interventions continue to make the operations of Caribbean Airlines/Air Jamaica profitable and sustainable," Persad-Bissessar stated.

Commenting on crime and security, she urged all member states to support said Trinidad & Tobago's offer to locate the Secretariat of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in Port of Spain.

She said there are several outstanding issues likely to impact the operationalization of the ATT that need to be settled.

Among the outstanding issues are:

  • The selection and funding of the provisional Secretariat provided for in Article 18 of the Treaty
  • The funding mechanism for the Secretariat
  • The periodicity of meetings of the Conference of States Parties
  • Settlement of the Rules of Procedure of the Conference of States Parties
Persad-Bissessar said Trinidad and Tobago has taken its role very seriously with respect to regional security. She said one area that reflects T&T's regional commitment is the operation of Coastal Radar Systems jointly with Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

She also raised the issue of IMPACS, which she said has had a significant impact and in the national crime fighting agendas of member states.

IMPACS sub-Agencies have provided significant support to national law enforcement Agencies through:

  • The Joint Regional Communications Centre’s (JRCC) flagship programme
  • The Advance Passenger Information System (APIS)
  • The Regional Intelligence Fusion Centre (RIFC)
She said with these mechanisms in place, the region has been successful in interdicting drug traffickers, identifying pedophiles, monitoring and preventing where required, the movement of terrorist elements and assisting national entities in identifying trends to mitigate the potential threats which can be detrimental to recovering economies.

However she said the agency is today in urgent need of financial resources to sustain its operations, and meet its contractual obligations to pay staff salaries, as well as suppliers and service providers.

"We have grown to rely not only on the expert services of the Agency, but also on the expertise of its people and we must resolve to be more solemn in our recognition of their contribution.

"To put at risk our joint investment in regional security infrastructure is a mistake we cannot afford to make," she declared.

Persad-Bissessar told her regional colleagues the future of the region is bright and filled with boundless potential. However she said member states must be willing to take tough decisions and fulfill their obligations if the region is to attain a secure future and build sustainable development and progress.

"Some of the world’s greatest success stories were born not out of grand beginnings, but out of resolve and determination, out of unity of vision," she said.

"When the story of CARICOM’s success is written, let it be because we, here today, were the ones who decided that no stone will be left unturned, and no requirement will be left unmet in our mission.

"Let it be because we stood together and recognised that while it is our common objectives that create the dream, it is our joint actions that will achieve that dream!"

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai