News Americas, MIAMI, FL, Feb. 25, 2021: New Caribbean Community (CARICOM) chairman and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley, on Wednesday opened his address to the 32nd Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM by putting the spotlight also on crime and violence in the region.
His focus on the issue came following protests and outrage in the twin island following the senseless kidnapping, murder and suspected rape of Andrea Bharatt. Bharatt’s decomposing body was found on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021 in the heavily forest area of Aripo in Eastern Trinidad, after she was reported missing on Jan. 29, 2021. She had taken a taxi home from work with a friend before she disappeared.
On Wednesday, Dr. Rowley, without referencing the murder specifically in his country and the criticism he has faced, said crime and violence in the region has to be addressed “as a public health issue,” even as countries focus their attention on dealing with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He revealed that a planned high-level summit on the issue, that was postponed last year, must be convened soon.
“Although our attention has been appropriately focused on securing the health and socioeconomic wellbeing of our people and the Community’s post-COVID recovery, we must remain committed to addressing crime and violence as a public health issue in our region,” he said as he addressed the opening ceremony of the Summit, which is being held virtually. “Across the globe, we have seen how shutdowns have contributed to an increase in cases of domestic violence. Additionally, in the region, we continue to witness unconscionable acts of violence against the women and children of our Community.”
Rowley also identified a “deepening sense of insecurity triggered by the scourge of illicit trafficking in goods and persons in our region” as another issue of concern. He said such threats to law enforcement and security, specifically the illicit trafficking in persons, have been particularly disconcerting as CARICOM continues its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These illicit activities and their violent spill-over effects further intensify citizen insecurity throughout our region,” the CARICOM Chairman said. “We have acknowledged that to address these challenges, it is insufficient to rely on law enforcement alone and that a multi-disciplinary approach which engages various sectors of our community must be adopted.”
The CARICOM Heads of Government will wrap up today, Feb. 25, 2021. Curbing the spread of COVID-19, access to vaccines and related issues; the status of implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME); advancing the regional agenda on Food and Nutrition Security, which has become increasingly challenged by a number of factors including the COVID-19 pandemic; and deliberation on the framework for a joint tourism policy for CARICOM as well as Reparations and Regional Security are on the agenda.