(CMC) – Trinidad and Tobago Prime MInister Dr Keith Rowley on Monday urged all stakeholders in the Caribbean to get on board in dealing with the crime situation in the region, warning “this is a war we cannot afford to lose”.
Rowley, who has lead responsibility for Energy and Security within the quasi Cabinet of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) told the two-day regional symposium on crime that “this is a historic moment” and that deliberation are “not the usual command gathering to deal with trade, education, finance, tourism, health or diplomacy.
“We have 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,” Rowley told his fellow Caricom leaders, academics, diplomats and representatives of various regional and international institutions and countries.”
The leaders of Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, Belize and Haiti are not attending the symposium, which is being held under theme “Violence as a Public Health Issue-The Crime Challenge”.
Rowley told the audience that the record of the 21st century will show that for all of the new era, countries all have continued to be haunted by violence from the domestic quarters at home, school yards, streets and borders.
“In short ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, violence is threatening to destroy our paradise in the Caribbean Sea. This is not to say that we have not been struggling to cope with this truth, on the contrary we have been, but if we are not careful its stubbornness and metastasising malignancy could overwhelm us,” Rowley stated.
“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,” Rowley added.
He told the opening ceremony that in Trinidad and Tobago, in the years 2011 to 2022, a total of 5,439 lives had been lost to violent murder, largely through the use of imported firearms and ammunition.
“In 2011 we lost 352 lives and by 2022 the annual count was over 600, a new record, already being challenged by the murder rate for 2023. Except for COVID, in a pandemic, none of the listed dangerous diseases have taken lives like this in our population,” he said.
Rowley said that apart from the deaths, the costs associated with crime and violence are astronomical with all of these frequent daily incurred costs being borne by the taxpayers at every level from scarce revenues diverted from other more deserving productive priorities.