Kamla cautions Heads of Govt
MONTEGO BAY – The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago has warned that her country will not operate like an “ATM card” when it comes to funding the regional security budget.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar issued this caution to Caribbean governments at the CARICOM Heads of Government summit here.
Persad-Bissessar told reporters that a proposal had been made for a passenger security fee to be charged on all airline tickets, with a view to raising the US$40 million needed for the regional security budget.
However, that proposal did not enjoy the full backing of member states, Persad-Bissessar said.
A report from the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) quoted the Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister as saying: “So that’s where we are stuck because some nations are not of the view that we would want to put a passenger fee onto every ticket.”
She also said that while Trinidad and Tobago was not asked to fund the regional budget, “should the money not be forthcoming it would shut down several agencies that function at the moment such as IMPACS (the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security) the RSS (Regional Security System,) and so on”.
“It will seriously compromise our security agenda for the region . . . but Trinidad and Tobago is not prepared to fund that ntire programme.”
She also said that her government was reviewing a proposal for the establishment of a regional radar system that had been proposed to Caribbean leaders by the previous Patrick Manning government. She pointed out that three offshore patrol vessels (OPV), the first of which was due to arrive by May last year, had not yet been received and it would be difficult for Trinidad and Tobago to proceed with the purchase at this stage.
“It was raised yesterday (Tuesday), and I indicated to them that it is not that we want to pull out because the security of our borders will also be impaired, but it is because [of] the OPVs. There have been serious delays in delivery dates for those.
“We spent about five billion dollars (US$833 million). There has been no delivery date in sight. I am told by [security advisor] Captain [Gary] Griffith, in fact, that one of the vessels that you cannot even fire a shot from it . . . they are not suitable.
“The goalpost keeps moving in terms of delivery dates so it is not that Trinidad and Tobago doesn’t want to have the radar system. I am advised that without the boats you cannot have the radar,” she added.
The Prime Minister said she was looking forward to a successful outcome to the summit, adding that Trinidad and Tobago had been firm on its positions. (CMC/Jamaica Observer)