Rowley To UN: Gun Crisis in Caribbean

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ON the day that four young people were shot and killed, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley made an appeal to the United Nations to deal with firearm trafficking in the Caribbean.

Delivering a National Statement at the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Thursday evening, he said while Trinidad and Tobago was a responsible member of the organisation, and committed to doing its part to achieve sustainable development and international peace and security for all, a major threat was the proliferation and use of illegal firearms.

He said, “Only today Mr President, we experienced a loss of life of four members of one family killed by an assailant with an assault weapon. Mr President, this situation has worsened largely because of the accelerated commercial availability coupled with illegal trafficking from countries of manufacture into the almost defenceless territories of the Caribbean.”

Dr Rowley continued, “In a population of 1.4 million people Trinidad and Tobago experienced over 600 murders last year, 90% of which involved handguns and increasingly, assault weapons. Within our best efforts and a huge consumption of our already scarce resources, we have seen over 400 violent firearms-driven killings already this year. 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.”

Mentioning the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Regional Symposium to address Crime and Violence as a Public Health Issue, hosted by Trinidad and Tobago back in April, Dr Rowley said this country remained committed to collaboration and to the Arms Trade Treaty and its stated objectives.

Trinidad and Tobago will also continue to work with the United States, to urgently stem the illicit trade of illegal firearms, most of which are produced by gun manufacturers and promoters based in this country, he said.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that crime had the potential to destabilise any country and Trinidad and Tobago supported CARICOM’s position that all nations respect the Caribbean Sea as a Zone of Peace.

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He also mentioned the violent situation with Haiti applauding the efforts by other nations  to assist.

Quoting from calypsonian David Rudder in his classic “Haiti I’m Sorry” Dr Rowley said, “I refuse to believe that we good people would forever turn our hearts and eyes away; Haiti I’m sorry, we misunderstood you, one day we’ll turn our heads and look inside you.” 

“That day has come. That day is now. We the United Nations gathered here must prioritize authorization for the external help that Haiti desperately needs,” he said.

Dr Rowley also spoke in support of Cuba, a Caribbean nation that continues to struggle to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

He said, “For over six decades, the people of Cuba have been grappling with significantly diminished prospects for charting a course towards prosperity, meaningful progress and sustainable development. To this end, Trinidad and Tobago reiterates its call for the unconditional lifting of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba, and certainly for its removal from any unjustified listing as an alleged State Sponsor of terrorism.”

Dr Rowley also extended condolences to and solidarity with the government and people of Morocco who have suffered a tragic earthquake as well as the government and people of Libya who suffered massive flooding which have resulted in the significant loss of lives, livelihoods and destruction of property.

At the beginning of his speech, the Prime Minister also congratulated President of the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Dennis Francis, a Trinidad and Tobago citizen.

I stand before you on behalf of a proud nation, which is celebrating the leadership of the General Assembly for the next year by a son of the soil of Trinidad and Tobago. We are proud of you Mr President,” he said.


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