Law enforcement officers will be placed under greater scrutiny as Government moves to clamp down on those who sell or rent state-issued weapons to criminals. Minister of National Security John Sandy made the announcement at the Police Academy, St James, yesterday while delivering the feature address at the opening of a sub-regional inter-training course on combating the illicit trafficking in firearms and explosives for the Caribbean states. "Let me state categorically that the Government intends to hold the members of law enforcement to a greater level of accountability and make them answerable for wrongdoing in this regard, as we recognise that they are the ones who can readily access weapons, which in the normal course of things should only be used in the interest of the State," Sandy said.
He said sporadically, both military and police-issued firearms went missing, and weapons stored at police stations for safe-keeping were alleged to be diverted for criminal use. He said the State's efforts at combating firearms trafficking did not stop at bringing the appropriate legislative framework to Parliament.
Describing illegal arms trafficking as transnational and cross-border in character, Sandy said it required that countries, regionally and internationally, co-operate with the public and private sectors. He added: "I remain forever convinced that our joint efforts will indeed strengthen the capabilities of not only this country's security forces in dealing with the challenge, but it will also aid the other security services throughout the Caribbean region, in combating firearms trafficking. "This will ultimately contribute to the reduction of gun-related violence in the Caribbean Basin," Sandy added. He said the majority of crimes committed with guns-homicidal or otherwise-were carried out by offenders using handguns obtained illegally, through illicit underground purchasing, renting, leasing, or theft. The smuggling of illegal weapons into individual Caribbean countries, Sandy said, formed the major part of the overall challenge.
"Weapons manufactured or otherwise available in other jurisdictions are smuggled into Trinidad and Tobago, via fishing vessels and private pleasure boats," Sandy said. He said another strategy arms traffickers used to procure guns was "straw purchasers." "These are acquaintances, relatives or persons hired to purchase guns from legitimate gun dealers. "Trading on the knowledge that end-use controls may be absent or inadequate, these shipments are procured for an apparently legitimate use and then forwarded to a third country," Sandy explained.He also cited cases in which firearms were purchased at a gun shop in a foreign country and imported into the Caribbean region undetected among luggage.
The ten-day course includes participants from various Caribbean countries and incorporates the following modules:
• Human security;
• international instruments and legal frameworks;
• stockpile management and firearms destruction;
• disarmament; and
• youth and children in the context of illegal firearms trafficking.