PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC)— Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries were on Monday urged to “deal with the elephant in the room” and put in place strategies that will ensure the financial stability of regional organisations, such as the Regional Security System (RSS), as the regional leaders discussed the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the Caribbean.
The Trinidad-based Caricom Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) has organised a five-day virtual conference aimed at identifying how the pandemic has impacted criminality and organised crime and the implications for the future.
The event is being held under the theme “Securing Our Caribbean Community Within The Era Of COVID-19 and Beyond”.
Caricom chairman and St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, told the conference that despite the financial situation brought on by COVID, the countries in the region would have been stranded had it not been for the work done by the regional institutions, including the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) IMPACS, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) among others.
He reminded his colleagues that when the pandemic was declared in the region in January, Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had indicated that “the antidote to COVID-19 is Caricom, the regional integration process.
“In whatever we do, we just have to just simply have to push our work through our regional institutions and when we make the representations, the World Bank, the IMF, the European Union to the governments in the United States and Canada and Britain and the like…that we do so as Caricom.”
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley underscored the need for stability, adding “we cannot ignore the elephant in the room which is the funding necessities for these regional entities that are going beyond the call of duty to make our lives easier at the national level.
“What IMPACS does for us, there is no single Caribbean nation who can provide us and has the capacity to do the advanced passenger information…both against INTERPOL as well as against the United States government entities.
“These things are critical, not just for the lower end but also the higher end problems that are known to the international community for which we ought still to be sensitive and vigilant to ensure that it is not imported into our states to create an additional problem beyond public health, beyond climate crisis to security issues that may be beyond our capability….”
“I think the time has come for us to address the issue of….financing and I hope Prime Minister Gonsalves will bring his great seniority in office as chair of the Caribbean Community to allow us to finally confront this elephant in the room after decades of avoiding it,” Mottley said.
Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell told the conference that the region ”would have been in no man’s land” had it not been for the work of the various regional entities in responding to the pandemic, adding ”this pandemic has demonstrated the importance of security to the region”.
He noted that prior to the pandemic, Grenada, for instance had not recorded the number of murders it is now doing since March.
“We are seeing two and three murders every month which is a strange phenomenon for Grenada, and what is more significant is that they are all little personal disputes. People’s temperature seems to be high at this particular point in time, they are not tolerating each other,” he said, noting that any little difference in opinion results in murders.
Mitchell said that the churches and other organisations are now meeting with social partners to address the situation.