by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The proliferation of small arms, light weapons, and ammunition continues to threaten national and regional peace and security, explained Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Terrance Drew. Speaking at the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, PM Drew called for international cooperation from states that manufacture guns and ammunition.
“Mr. President, we aspire to create a society where our people can live in safety and security. However, we are plagued by the scourge, that is, the proliferation of illicit and untraceable weapons flowing into our region. States that manufacture these weapons must take greater responsibility to combat the illegal flows that can threaten our national and regional security and can have devastating socio-economic consequences. We cannot fight against these guns on our own. International cooperation is necessary if we are to ensure the protection of our societies and our people. To this end, we thank the United States for increasing its collaboration with the region, with my own country, to deal with the illicit transshipment of guns and to buttress our overall national security apparatus. We must continue to work together to ensure continued success in this regard,” Dr. Drew stated.
St. Kitts and Nevis recorded its first murder for 2023 on January 11 and recorded 21 other homicides between that time and September 23. A majority of those slayings were committed by guns and claimed the lives of mostly young males between the ages of 18 and 47.
Other regional leaders shared a similar cry at the UN General Assembly.
Guns and ammunition are not manufactured in the Caribbean, yet account for a majority of slayings in the Caribbean said Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
“The use of Illegal guns accounts for a significant percentage of all recorded homicides in the Caribbean. At an average of 15.1 per hundred thousand, the region has one of the highest homicides in the world, three times the world’s average. Yet, Mr President, no country in the Caribbean manufactures a single weapon or a single round of ammunition. Not one. A majority of these weapons originated in the United States, from which they are smuggled or trafficked to bolster organised criminals involved in trafficking illicit narcotics. In any event, the fallout from these illegal guns is their increasing use in Caribbean countries and the clear threat that they pose to our societies and the capacities of our law enforcement to cope. Given that all our countries are bordered by vast expanses of sea, we face further challenges to obtain modern technology, including satellite imagery, radar and surveillance systems to try to stop the smuggling of weapons.”
Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister- Dr Keith Rowely, said the region’s ability to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Goals is bombarded with challenges, such as gun crimes. He said a lot of his country’s resources have been put towards combating crime and violence, but the killings continue to persist.
“Our ability to safely navigate our destiny to the harbour of sustainable development by 2030 is stymied by challenges and threats, some of which are existential. One such threat is the proliferation and use of illegal firearms in our society, which, just like in other jurisdictions, bring untold sufferings to many families, communities and the nation as a whole.”
“Mr President, this situation has worsened largely because of the accelerated commercial availability, coupled with the illegal trafficking from countries of manufacture into the almost defenceless territories of our Caribbean. In a population of 1.4 million people in Trinidad and Tobago, we experienced over 600 hundred murders last year, 90% of which involved handguns and increasingly assault weapons. Within our best efforts and huge consumption of our already scarce resources, we have seen over 400 violent firearms-driven killings already this year. Mr President, this is a crisis shared by almost all the Caribbean territories and is to be added to the challenges that stand in the way of any successful tackling of the development goals already identified,” Rowley stated.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris announced on June 8 that the U.S. would invest more than $100 million in the Caribbean region to crack down on weapons trafficking and other initiatives.
The VP made that announcement before an official trip to the Bahamas for a meeting of the Caribbean and U.S.
The U.S. Justice Department is expected to appoint a coordinator to oversee cases involving illegal weapons smuggling in the Caribbean as island nations report a rise in violent crimes. The State Department vowed to help improve forensic work in the region, help strengthen local police departments aimed at helping islands solve gun-related cases and provide training for collecting and analysing related intelligence.