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Honouring Mr Manning’s memory

Cricket World Cup must not be regarded as an event that has come and gone in terms of the security of the Region. Rather, it should be regarded only as the catalyst that drove us into taking the urgent action which in fact has long been necessary for the continued survival of our Region.

The Conference of Heads of Government has now agreed to recognize Security as the Fourth Pillar of the Community. It is therefore incumbent on the new Framework for the management of security issues within the Community, under the leadership of this Council, to build on the platform provided and to work assiduously to build confidence in the Regional Security Sector” – The late Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning, in an 2007 address to the Council of Ministers responsible for national security and law enforcement.

It is ironic that as Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders open their summit in Guyana today, which is focused on crime and security, the region is mourning the death of its former lead crime and security commander in chief.

The death of ex-Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning on Saturday, also comes nearly a decade after the region had developed an elaborate and comprehensive Security Strategy for Cricket World Cup 2007 that was to be used to inform future tournaments, such as the Caribbean Premier League, which ironically bowled off in Manning’s native Trinidad and Tobago, just as the ailing 69-year-old former People’s National Movement leader was taking his last earthly breaths.

As Manning was himself forced to acknowledge, not even that strategy could have prevented the death of Bob Woolmer; the tear gas incident at the Hilton Trinidad or the crash of a light airplane near a warm up venue, as they were not the direct responsibility of the regional security planners. However, the strategy itself was successful in making us all feel safe during a high traffic period for nine official CWC venues plus Dominica which hosted games during the international tournament.

For that temporary period at least the “West Indies” was one, if only for security arrangements, and despite the obvious devolution of national security sovereignty, it was notably for the greater good and we endured it, if only because the International Cricket Council so demanded it of us, but soon the tournament would end and our insular realities once again step in.

Therefore, measures such as the Single Domestic Space and the CARICOM Common Visa Regime, which were sunset in nature, would be no more.

The region would however remain committed to the Advance Passenger and Cargo Information Systems; the sharing of intelligence among member states; the establishment of the implementation agency for crime and security; mutual assistance among member states in the event of a national security crisis and the mobilization and deployment of security personnel as necessary — which all sounds quite good on paper, but, in practise, still prove a major headache for regional travellers and for all the wrong reasons, if you are passing through countries like Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados or Manning’s own Trinidad and Tobago for instance.

We are all very familiar by now with the Shanique Myrie “finger search” fiasco that occurred here just a few years ago, but it is just as insane but less publicised the ignorance that intra-Caribbean travellers who are in transit are made to go through, under the guise of security.

It simply does not make sense for the Gaston Browne administration to perpetuate the current nonsense of having transiting passengers, who have arrived on a direct flight from St Kitts, for example — a mere 104 kilometres — whose only reason for being in Antigua is to catch another flight on the same carrier to another Caribbean island, go through a second detailed screening.

It is a farce for passengers arriving in Barbados on a LIAT flight from St Vincent & the Grenadines — a mere 179 kilometres away — and whose only purpose for being here is to catch a connecting LIAT flight to Trinidad, for example, to be made to endure more security screening.    

It is idiotic to say the least and a useless folly since the “intense security screening” in St John’s did not prevent Yuliyan Emilov Borisov, a 32-year-old Bulgarian national, one of the masterminds of an ATM heist which occurred here nearly three years ago, from hopping on to a LIAT flight for Antigua before jetting off to Britain.

Similarly, Jamaica’s treatment of Trinidad and Guyanese nationals in particular, on account of “yellow fever” suspicions, is nothing short of scandalous and counterproductive when one considers the enormous amount of work that has already been put into the regional security and CARICOM Single Market Plan.

We therefore feel that the best tribute our new crop of CARICOM leaders could pay to Mr Manning this week is to get to work on practical security and other arrangements that will put paid to talk of a ‘Cari-exit’.

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