Chickland RC students sacrifice for the poor
April 27, 2023
New Chancellor for Bridgetown
April 27, 2023

A call to action

Leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) met in Port of Spain for a two-day symposium on the region’s burgeoning crime problem April 17 and 18. What could now be deemed the ‘April crime accord’ detailed an eleven-point plan of action that the region now waits to see implemented.

Under the banner theme Violence as a Public Health Issue, the regional leaders discussed a problem that seems to elude capture no matter how much manpower and resources are allocated to fix it.

In his opening remarks, CARICOM Chairman and Bahamas’ Prime Minister Philip Davis opined: “There are no quick fixes,” yet he said it was incumbent that the leaders “must act quickly to save our people from this epidemic.”

Every country in the region is plagued by crime, some more so than others. Trinidad is perhaps the worst of the lot.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, the host of the meeting, in his opening remarks noted that the leaders had “assembled here in this unity of purpose to confront a problem – one that is common and threatening to every aspect of every individual’s life in the Caribbean.”

In the period 2011 to 2022, this country lost 5,439 lives to violent murder, and already for this year the murder count is close to 200. And while murder is the benchmark for judging criminal activity, home invasions and crimes against persons are also on the rise and daily getting worse.

PM Rowley espoused that “violence in the Caribbean is a public health emergency which threatens our lives, our economies, our national security and by extension every aspect of our well-being.”

Writing in the Sunday Newsday, criminologist Professor Ramesh Deosaran noted that: “Violence as a public health issue” is an intriguing, newsworthy theme, especially since violence, like crime itself, is already defined in laws and court judgements. And it is not only about taking victims to hospital, pathological criminals or the mentally deficient. “The population’s intense fear of being attacked or robbed is a very unhealthy issue too.”

The fact is that this spiralling, out-of-control problem takes a toll on families, children lose parents to gun and gang warfare; and the economy with a phenomenal cost of billions annually.

There are self-imposed curfews by citizens with people living in fear. We look behind our shoulders at every turn, and people stay away from the capital city unless they have urgent business. The effects of crime have taken, and continues to take, an unbearable toll on every aspect of national life.

There is no denying there is merit in the coming together of minds to discuss the issue, but it can’t be a one and done. Leaders must ensure that they get the international support required to stop the flow of guns and drugs into the region. They need international help to bring an end to the scourge of human trafficking. These crimes are bigger than CARICOM and requires help from our international partners.

The PNM Manifesto of 2015 condemned the UNC’s handling of crime, and under the heading ‘National Security’ stated: “Our strategy will include the following components: Protecting Our People – Whole of Government Approach – The PNM will adopt a whole-of-government approach to national security. All Ministries and agencies will thus share responsibility and be accountable for the security and safety of the State….”

It is time that the government keeps that promise to use every resource at its disposal to fight the scourge of crime. The symposium should not be just another talk shop but one that has results and brings new hope for the safety and security of Caribbean citizens.