BUCCAMENT–Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday called on Caricom leaders to support T&T's bid to have the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) secretariat headquartered in Port-of-Spain.She lobbied for support while addressing the opening of the 25th Caricom inter-sessional conference at Buccament Bay resort, St Vincent.The PM officially handed over Caricom chairmanship to St Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves at the ceremony.Fourteen of the 15 regional leaders are attending the two-day conference. Suriname's Desi Bouterse, who is attending a Latin American grouping meeting on Venezuela, was absent.
Caricom Secretary General Irwin La Rocque and its chairman Gonsalves praised Persad-Bissessar for excellent work in her tenure."We must thank her from the bottom of our heart," Gonsalves said.Addressing her fellow leaders, Persad-Bissessar, who is head of Caricom's crime/security committee, said crime and security remained of concern to all. She said T&T was proposing an amendment to the conference agenda on ratification of the ATT and also to seek support for T&T's Caricom-endorsed bid to host the ATT secretariat in Port-of-Spain.She said the ATT provided Caricom with a significant component in the global fight against trade of conventional arms in illicit markets."Today 116 states have signed the ATT, including Caricom members, save Haiti," she added.
She said 11 states–including T&T and other regional islands–had ratified the ATT.Persad-Bissessar added: "However, for this to come into force, it requires the signature of 50 states."
She said T&T had support from Mexico and Chile for T&T to host the ATT secretariat.I'm calling on my colleagues in Caricom to consider seriously expediting your signatures on this treaty so this ratification can take place. I'm sure we can make up some numbers," she added.She also called for a unified approach in negotiations before and after the ATT became effective.
Meantime, Persad-Bissessar said, she had taken on board the need to lock down maritime borders and would be working to strengthen radar systems, particularly with Grenada and St Vincent.
The PM extended an invitation to Caricom states which wished to share T&T's embassy in Beijing, China.
"We will be opening our doors to Caricom for islands who don't have embassies in China. We could have a Caricom desk within our T&T Embassy," she said, noting that T&T's agreements with China could redound to the region's benefit.Persad-Bissessar said Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran and the Caricom Secretary General would work on the plan for a shared T&T embassy.She also invited leaders to T&T for Nelson Mandela Week, which involves a week of activities in July commemorating the life of the late South African leader.
The meeting started over a hour late due to the late arrival of several leaders. Several Vincentian protesters staged a placard demonstration at the entrance to the Buccament hotel.