Jamaica, Trinidad say illegal flow of arms greatest threat to national security

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaican governments Monday warned that the greatest threat to national security in their respective countries is the illegal flow of arms and ammunition organised “not by stupid people”.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness Monday held bilateral talks at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s on the outskirts of the capital, with Rowley indicating that the two leaders were in agreement that the arms trade was being undertaken by people “who are very well aware of the circumstances around which we live and in which we live”.

He said this is something the Caribbean Community (Caricom) had been able to impress upon the United States and that Washington “cannot turn a blind eye to us where every Caricom country is in this predicament and your suppliers and your diaspora people can just flood us… including with deportees”.

Rowley said that the United States has the capacity to be more effective in following up on who is doing what and “it is something that we are cooperating on and today we signed on to that MOU (memorandum of understanding) and we had some discussions for further closer co-operation and information sharing between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago” particularly in the importation of small arms and assault weapons entering the countries from the United States.

Holness told reporters that “it is amazing when we exchanged notes on the national security front, the similarities and commonalities not just on the violence front but on the elements that fuel it and enable it.

“So weapons are an enabler of violence. How they get into our country and the people who are financing them there is just an incredible level of commonality. And so while we are not saying much on what we are going to be doing, but certainly along the lines of collaboration and sharing information we will be able to have an impact.

“But from a political standpoint, especially geopolitically, we need to amplify our voice regarding the flow of small arms and light weapons into our region in which as we always say, we don’t make guns, we don’t make ammunitions, but they are so widely available in our societies.”

Holness said that the guns and ammunition were coming in through official airports as well as on boats from South America and Haiti.

“So it comes in both, but the one we are really concerned about are those that are coming in through our legal ports because if you think of it, it is where you have placed your most institutional resources and if it is coming through your ports then it speaks to a high level of possible corruption in the ports system and the Customs system.

“So we are concerned about that. I won’t speak too much about what we are doing, but in recent times we have integrated Customs in our national Get the Gun strategy and other strategies that we have and as it relates to the illegal importation through unregistered ports for boats coming in we have increased our surveillance and our off shore patrolling and in recent times we have been having success in stemming that flow,” Holness told reporters.

Jamaica has recorded 968 murders for the period January 1 to August 22 this year as compared to 929 killings last year, an increase of 4.2 per cent. The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is also reporting that there have been 767 shootings as compared to 801 for the same period last year.

In Trinidad and Tobago, acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob said 87 per cent of the killings for the year so far was a result of gun violence. He said the police have seized 408 firearms for the year so far and charged over 1,000 persons for gun-related offences.

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