Preventing a Security Crisis in the Caribbean

Commentary/Letter to the Editor

A U.S. report entitled, "Preventing a Security Crisis in the Caribbean," issued by the U.S. Congress last year says that despite impressive gains, drug trafficking, local drug consumption and the U.S. demand for illegal drugs remain major causes of crime and violence.

Cocaine trafficking through the Caribbean en route to Europe has increased 800 per cent in the past two years due, among other reasons, the lack of technological resources in ports, according to conclusion of a seminar "Police Investigation of Maritime Cocaine Trafficking, with Special Reference to Container Traffic," that was held Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

A senior official of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) has described as disturbing the illicit trafficking of small arms and the growth of gangs in the region. The Caribbean region continues to be among the top three, globally, for high incidence of homicides.

The IMPACS says what is more disturbing, are recent trends indicating significant growth in gang formation.

Barbados Prime Minister (PM) Freundel Stuart says security issues are real for us here in the Caribbean…"If we did not want to be mature up to then (the Grenada coup)…We were forced into maturity by those events and we came face to face with a reality that we needed to have in place the kind of mechanisms, military and otherwise that would allow us to handle such challenges."

The mechanism that PM Stuart was referring to in a speech is the Regional Security System (RSS) comprising of seven independent English-speaking Caribbean countries. The RSS is prepared for a number of contingencies such as national emergencies, search and rescue, immigration, fishery, customs, and maritime controls as well as threats to national security.

PM Stuart sounded a note of caution for persons to realize that the Caribbean – which country Sint Maarten is part and parcel of – was not divorced from the problems of the world. "Located where we are, we cannot continue to believe that we are insulated or isolated from the threats that bedevil other parts of the world."

Small Island Nation States like ours can be caught off guard if not up to speed on intelligence developments within the region and around the world. Hence, why inter-country agency cooperation is so essential and necessary in the 21st century as noted from the perspective by PM Stuart. For example, according to the United Kingdom Intelligence Services Committee Report, the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ caught many by surprise and it presented a real challenge to the intelligence community who had to reprioritise quickly and redirect their resources toward the Mediterranean region.

One of the primary focuses of intelligence services are on the growing threat from Al-Qaeda affiliates on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Somalia. AQAP according to the UK report has shown itself to be resilient and it remains capable of mounting terrorist attacks against the West. Most recent terrorist activities have been the Algerian gas field attack last month and the French intervention in the African country of Mali on January 11 to stem the advance of AQAP.

Sint Maarten’s Security Service could lead the way in bringing the Caribbean together to confront potential future threats to the wellbeing of the Caribbean people via disruptions in economic activities. Planning is the key and cooperation within the region is essential along with working with other partners within the Western Hemisphere.

Roddy Heyliger