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Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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PM urges UN to ratify arms treaty
The death of T&T scholarship winner Ravindra Ramrattan during the recent terrorist attack at a mall in Kenya was another example of the consequences of the illicit arms flow across borders, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar told the United Nations General Assembly yesterday. Persad-Bissessar spoke about Ramrattan’s death as she urged world leaders to ratify the UN’s small arms treaty during her address to leaders at the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Ramrattan, a President’s Medal winner, had been working for the World Bank in Nairobi since 2011. He was among an estimated 72 people killed when members of the Somalia-based al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab group stormed the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. Some 175 people were also wounded during the attack. Victims also hailed from the UK, France, India, Ghana, Australia, China, Peru and New Zealand.
Yesterday, a spokesman from the PM’s office said Ramrattan’s body was scheduled to be brought back to T&T tomorrow via a Caribbean Airlines flight from London, after it is airlifted there from Nairobi. Persad-Bissessar, also Caricom chairman, in a wide-ranging address to UN members yesterday, said Caricom members were supporters of the Arms Trade Treaty, agreed to in March, which they had already signed and ratified.
She said: “In the light of our experiences and challenges with the impact of crime, violence and the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, on our development efforts; we would encourage all States which have not as yet done so, to sign and ratify the ATT so that it may come into force at the earliest opportunity.”
She added, “In fact, one of our brilliant young citizens, Mr Ravindra Ramrattan, a former President’s Gold Medalist for academic excellence, was killed last Saturday in the terrorist attack on Westgate mall in Nairobi. He no doubt fell victim to illegal
guns and other weapons in the hands of murderous terrorists.
“His death is merely one more example of the consequences of the illicit cross border flows of small arms and light weapons which, in the Caricom context, and indeed in many regions of the world, are our weapons of mass destruction.” Persad-Bissessar also underscored the Caribbean’s grave concern with the escalating humanitarian crisis in Syria. She reiterated regional calls for the situation to be resolved through dialogue, and not through the use of any measures which would violate international law.
“T&T also submits if there is prima facie evidence that individuals committed war crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), during this protracted conflict, steps should be taken to bring those individuals to justice.”
Persad-Bissessar, however, expressed concern about the Millenium Development Goals programme which UN leaders launched in 2000, which was aimed at achieving targets on matters from poverty alleviation to environmental sustainability. She said progress had been uneven. “I am proud to report T&T has made tremendous strides in achieving the goals, and in some cases has surpassed them. Nevertheless, a number of countries are not on track to realise any of the targets,” Persad-Bissessar said.
Saying current approaches would not advance that agenda by 2015, the PM said transformative change at the national, regional and international levels was required. She said high level meetings on the situation must “underscore that we must go beyond business as usual.” The PM highlighted Caricom’s concern about small highly indebted middle income countries.
Caricom states, she said, were now appealing to the international community to support the call for the immediate review of the narrow criteria used by multilateral financial institutions and an early review of the economic and financial situation of graduated small highly indebted middle-income countries. She also reiterated Caricom’s call for the US embargo against Cuba to be lifted “sooner rather than later.”
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