- Honourable Dr. Horace Chang, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security of Jamaica and Chairman of the Council for National Security and Law Enforcement;
- Honourable Ministers and Heads of Delegation;
- Lt. Col. Michael Jones, Executive Director, CARICOM IMPACS;
- Commodore Errington Shurland, Executive Director, Regional Security System;
- Distinguished Delegates;
- Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to this Twenty-Third Meeting of the Council for National Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE). This is my first meeting of this Organ since having assumed Office as Secretary-General last August.
I wish to take this opportunity to extend appreciation to Honourable Robeson Benn, Minister of Home Affairs of Guyana for his chairmanship of the Council for 2021. To the current Chair, Dr. Horace Chang, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security of Jamaica, and Chairman of the Council for National Security and Law Enforcement, I congratulate you on your assumption of the Chair.
Now, more than ever, Honourable Ministers, the Community needs to advance the fight against crime and violence. As we continue the battle with COVID-19 and all its variants, there is an urgent need to strengthen cooperation among Member States.
There are many burning issues in the Security arena that need our attention. Foremost in my mind are the situation in our sister CARICOM Member State – Haiti, Trafficking in Persons/Human Smuggling and Cyber Security.
That a sitting President of a CARICOM Member State could be assassinated, and in the confines of his own home, was unimaginable until it happened. This, in addition to on-going gang violence, breakdown in democracy, the rule of law and good governance, makes it incumbent upon us as a group to consider offering support for developing a strategy, in collaboration with the people of Haiti and with the support of the international community, to help to lift that Member State out of its current state of crisis. This is urgent, given the dangerous and often fatal risks that Haitians take every day to leave their country frequently exposing themselves to heartless traffickers.
Trafficking in Persons and Human Smuggling remain a challenge in all parts of the globe. In this very Region, we have learnt of vessels with dead bodies being discovered which, in itself, points to another issue on our Agenda – that of the need for enhanced maritime security.
Trafficking in Persons results in the most vulnerable populations being exploited and pushed into modern day slavery – forced labour, sexual servitude, forced marriage and financial bondage. According to the International Labour Organisation, the majority of trafficked individuals are trapped in forced labour – 25% of them are children and 75% are women and girls. Sadly, the women and girls who are disproportionately affected by forced labour, account for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry.
Effectively identifying and combatting human trafficking and smuggling of migrants, Honourable Ministers, requires a holistic approach, and greater collaboration among law enforcement and security agencies, as well as among Governments, Civil Society Organisations and International Agencies.
We are all well aware that Cyber Security has become much more prevalent as a consequence of the increased use of ICT that has become necessary as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. CARICOM IMPACS has reported that the Community has experienced an increase in the reports of cybercrimes as businesses and schools are now virtual or blended.
In this regard and in addition to training for Law Enforcement Officers, Prosecutors and Magistrates on Cybercrime Investigations and Cybersecurity being conducted by the Agency, work is also being undertaken with regard to legislation. A regional cybercrime policy and legislative guidance document was developed with the objective of facilitating the establishment of harmonised policy and legislation within Member States, in keeping with the objectives of the CARICOM Cyber Security and Cybercrime Action Plan.
In light of the challenges we face and the work we are already doing to address these challenges together, it is especially important that the Protocol to incorporate CONSLE as an Organ of the Community and IMPACS as an Institution be fully signed and ratified. A revised version of the Protocol which has been pending since March 2009, was adopted at the Twenty-Seventh Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference which was held in Belize in February 2016. I sincerely hope therefore, that the Member States which have yet to sign and/or ratify the Protocol make it a matter of priority, as soon as possible, in order to allow for its entry into force. Belize is preparing to host yet another Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference in a couple of weeks so what a perfect opportunity!
Honourable Ministers, we have our work cut out for us, both at the policy and technical levels. Please accept my very best wishes for a most productive Meeting, as you deliberate the issues laid out before you.