By Ian Francis
In recent weeks, Caribbean Commonwealth nations have been the centre of
attention and recipients of many donated national security resources
that received media coverage and repeated Government Information
Services (GIS) announcements in recipient nations.
The Canada military hub initiative should not draw any excitement or
anxiety, as Canada has no intention of colonizing the region or trying
to govern and influence the governance process in the region. The
Canadian initiative should be viewed as positive, as Canada continues to
recognize its special status with the region. Unfortunately, those in
political leadership continue to misunderstand such status and see this
wonderful nation as a cheque writer. While Canada continues to hand out
cheques, regional decision makers must understand that Canada is a
nation of plenty, blessed with resources and capacity building tools.
The military hub is a step in the right direction.
Given all the above initiatives, there seems to have been a sudden
awakening in the Caribbean Division of the European Union (EU) whose
director, John Calochirou, recently announced in Jamaica that the EU is
planning to pump in 10 million pounds into the region to fight drug
trafficking. While this announcement might be encouraging news to many
of our regional multilateral outfits, who no doubt have begun to jockey
for project management of these funds, there remains an interesting and
imbalanced indictment that the Caribbean region remains a source for
drug transshipment into North American and European shores. This is
probably why such attention continues and mass investment of resources
geared primarily to fight drug trafficking. This is why it is reasonable
to ask who will the EU initiative benefit?
The Caribbean region has been under the microscope of many powerful
nations as a major geographical passage for illegal drug transshipment.
It is also well known that Caribbean political leaders remain extremely
concerned about the existing indictment but have apparently bought in to
the notion or belief that beefing up the regional coast guard and being
the recipients of fast patrol interdiction boats might alter or
eliminate the existing concerns.
This is why I have consistently expressed in this medium that, while the
Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) is a step in the right
direction, there is 1) pressing and urgent need for the Washington-based
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to accept and recognize that the
donation of fast interdiction speed boats might not be enough to address
the situation; and 2) our current regional leaders must show
responsibility and application of governance common sense by clearly
telling DHS that, while they are grateful to receive such donations,
there is an abundance of other needs that are required to address
national security capacity building and sustainability.
This is why I am closely watching the EU’s intended move in the region.
While they remain short on specifics, given their past colonial deeds in
the region, there is no doubt that they have a much better
understanding of national security in the region. It is sincerely hoped
that if the EU approaches the situation as a true and sustainable
partner, then much can be achieved with the amount to be invested by the
EU. However, effective deliverables can only be realized if EU
officials fully commit themselves to addressing the true and realistic
situation about national security in the Commonwealth Caribbean and
recognition that the rebuilding of police forces is of prime importance
supported by a strong and effective IT mechanism..
The current national security structure in the region clearly indicates
that Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana and Barbados are well advanced in
national security initiatives. Jamaica has an excellent military and
police structure that relies heavily on its constabulary for all
investigations and apprehension of criminals, the Jamaica Defence Force
also plays a vital role in intelligence gathering and other aspects of
public order and safety when called upon. I can only assume that the
other Caribbean nations mentioned above have adopted a similar practice.
There are currently several national security initiatives underway in
the Caribbean region. It is understood that Washington’s much touted
CBSI has gained flagship status; the government of Canada soon to be
established military beachhead in Jamaica, which will serve the region
in disaster preparedness and national security; the OAS/IADB firearms
registration and identification program and the EU’s pending investment
of 10 million pounds for combating drug trafficking. There might be many
more but this is what have been publicly shared with the people of the
National security continues to be a topic that consumes my interest and
this is why I am supportive of the EU initiative. While the EU has my
critical support, I would be remiss by not making the following
suggestions that might result in some successful outcomes:
• The EU initiatives should focus on the OECS nations, as it is extremely urgent to rebuild national security capacities.
• The EU must understand that an effective drug combating program in the
Caribbean region must be supported by a strong national security
intelligence structure. The current Special Branch structure is
outdated, irrelevant, weak and does not possess any capacities that will
effectively address the drug trafficking concerns.
• Those involved in drug smuggling are better equipped with resources, including equipment, cash and local sources.
• EU assistance should go to rebuilding the local police training
schools, revamping the training curriculum and having good facilities at
these training outlets that will give a sense of pride and
• The OECS and EU must work together in building a well-equipped
national intelligence structure, well trained with demonstrated
linguistic, analytical and global affairs capacity.
• The EU should refrain from retaining an execution agency in the
region, as most of the funds will go to project management fees and
little or no benefit to those who should receive it.
• Drug trafficking is not the only crime or national security concern in
the region. Therefore foreign agencies who have expressed the desire to
assist the region must expand their narrow thoughts that the Caribbean
region is only faced with a drug trafficking problem. This is not the
case and our regional leaders are obligated to show contempt and
• An effective and sustainable national security infrastructure in any
CARICOM state must be inclusive, non-corrupt, ability to collaborate
with other stakeholders regionally and international, have adequate
resources and be diverse.
The rush of foreign governments and their outlandish agencies that are
bent on dumping certain Latin American models on regional governments
must be rejected. What might have been successful in some of our
neighbours gang infested streets should not be dumped in CARICOM
nations. Our needs are different and this must be clearly understood.
Donating a few dollars or hosting a regional security meeting of law
enforcement officials will not bring relief to the region’s national
security problems or eliminate the drug trafficking. It is an outright
fallacy and trickery by certain Washington and European bureaucrats, who
simply want to tell their bosses that they are getting results.
Finally, snitching and other forms of cooperative initiatives between
the region and foreign governments seem to be paying off. About one
month ago, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in New Brunswick and
the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) were successful in stopping a
shipment of imported food from Guyana to a destination in Ontario that
was laced with cocaine.
In spite of the Commonwealth of Dominica’s recent misguided vote in ALBA
with Cuba and Venezuela to vilify the United States Agency For
International Development (USAID), a few days later they were quite
successful in working with the governments of the United States and
Colombia to halt a major cocaine transshipment. This is a heroic act by
the government of Dominica and they must be commended for their efforts.
Let me conclude by saying yes for foreign assistance to regional
governments to address national security issues. However, it is
important and mandatory that donor and recipient understand the
importance of building sustainable security and intelligence structures.
If these necessities are ignored, then no amount of outlandish grants
and contributions will bring about a resolution to effective national
security management in the region.
July 02, 2012