Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham
at the 11th Meeting of
Caribbean Community Standing Committee of
Commissioners of Police and Military Chiefs
30 October 2008
I am happy to have this opportunity to offer a warm welcome to Commissioners of Police and Military Chiefs from around our region and to express appreciation for your many years of loyal service and commitment to law enforcement.
We are all hopeful that the results of your meeting will assist us in better responding to the challenges that crime continues to present in each of our countries and across our region.
As you are all keenly aware, the Caribbean region has been a transit area for the trafficking of dangerous drugs between North and South America for more than three decades.
The fallout for our countries has been devastating. Today, many of the crimes committed in our small island nations can be traced to the illicit drug traffic. These include traffic in, and use of, firearms, kidnappings and gang violence.
Then, there is the white collar crime associated with smuggling operations: money laundering and various forms of fraud in the financial services sector. These, together with illegal immigration, including illicit traffic in humans, have become the principal threats to the security of the Caribbean.
The price for such lawlessness has included serious damage to our social fabric; our traditional values have been battered and family life disrupted. Too many young persons have been ensnared by addiction and crime and some have had promising careers cut short.
This has translated into increased criminality in our communities including dramatic increases in violent crimes against the person. In turn, increased demands are being placed upon our judicial, penal and rehabilitation agencies.
As we well know, crime is not a law enforcement problem alone. If we are to be successful in reducing criminal behaviour in our countries, we must act vigorously on several fronts
We must continue important work already commenced in several of our states toward providing in-depth analysis of the social and human aspects of crime. This means improving public awareness of crime and crime prevention, addressing unemployment and alleviating poverty.
In addition, we must ensure that an adequate legislative framework, capable of responding to modern crime and criminal organizations, is in place. Consistent action on all of these fronts will improve our ability to form and direct responses to alleviate crime.
It is appropriate that I acknowledge that credible work has begun in all these areas; still, it is also true that we have not achieved our desired goals in crime reduction. And so, Heads of Government have determined to keep the crime agenda on the front burner.
Last year we agreed to institutionalize in the Community what we termed “functional cooperation”, a cross-cutting method both to strengthen the regional integration process and also to enhance the region’s development while spreading more evenly the benefits of cooperation and collaboration.
Crime prevention and security call for cooperation and, indeed, such cooperation between regional police forces has a long history in the Caribbean. So we know that functional cooperation works on the security and crime fronts.
This conference, I believe, is representative of the commitment of leaders around our region to work together to improve our results and to ensure the security and safety of our island states.
Commissioners of Police and Military Chiefs are well aware of the need to focus activities, work on specific timelines, prioritize actions and use resources in a structured and efficient manner.
Experience will have taught all of you that answers to increasingly sophisticated and violent crime will not be found if we hang on to traditional definitions of sovereignty. Organized crime has become multilateral and transnational in nature; the perpetrators do not recognize national borders.
Most recently, the experience of the 2006 Cricket World Cup Tournament demonstrated the benefits of cooperation in intelligence-sharing.
I believe that we must continue to cooperate across sectors so that this experience can inform our strategies to deal with other important crime issues such as illegal migration, deportation, the illicit firearm and drug trades, financial crime and the increasing incidence of cyber-crime.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Addressing regional Commissioners of Police last year I challenged you to use your positions and expertise to shape and form strategic policing plans that cultivate intelligence, assist in our efforts to frustrate trans-border criminals and dismantle their criminal enterprises. I renew my call today to build upon old crime fighting techniques and to develop new anti-crime strategies.
This is especially important because we know that the criminals never rest. They are nothing but innovative in their determination to take what they have not earned.
Those of us who seek to protect our way of life and to promote our culture and traditions must demonstrate that our commitment to protect what is ours is greater than the desire of criminals to destroy it.
Yours is a difficult job and a tremendous responsibility and all of us who enjoy the freedoms which you daily protect are in your debt.
For my part I reiterate The Bahamas Government’s commitment to continue to do what is necessary to ensure the capacity and capability of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force to carry out their mandate to protect Bahamian citizens, residents and visitors to our country.
I am pleased that this 11th Meeting of Caribbean Community Standing Committees of Commissioners of Police and Military Chiefs is taking place in The Bahamas. I trust that your deliberations will be fruitful and to the benefit of all the Caribbean people.
It now gives me great pleasure to declare this 11th Meeting of Caribbean Community Commissioners of Police and Military Chiefs officially open.