Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is back in Washington again this week for talks with top-level United States government officials.
And not for the first time, his delegation, which includes government ministers and other dignitaries, has sought to further discussions on economic and energy matters.
However, Monday’s meeting with top officials at the Pentagon, creates some level of optimism that much-needed attention is now being paid to the burning issue of crime, with officials now placing emphasis on partnerships that can alleviate this matter of serious concern for residents of T&T.
With the talks ongoing, it is difficult to decipher at this point exactly what is on the table, with official reports yesterday from the Pentagon and US Department of Defense and a statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister keeping private the details of the measures discussed.
Yet, unlike his previous trips to Washington for diplomatic talks, we have been informed that the Prime Minister met with the Criminal Intelligence Agency (CIA) and was given an assurance that the US is committed to assisting T&T and the Caricom region with anti-crime efforts.
Among the issues discussed were illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons, maritime security, defence force modernisation and training, cybersecurity, and frameworks to facilitate expanded bilateral security co-operation.
T&T is among regional nations that have complained about the large influx of illegal weapons originating in the US that are being blamed for increases in murder rates.
While this week’s meetings in the US are a step in the right direction, they must be backed by tangible commitments measured by an eventual reduction in the murder rate over the year.
Dr Rowley knows only too well that the country will not measure success by good diplomatic relations and strong promises if blood continues to flow in the streets.
His Government continues to promise, year after year, to fix the crime situation, so far without any real success. His latest promise is an injection of $100 million into the military to assist the police in the crime fight in hotspot communities, without the country being given any clear idea of how this will work.
In the meantime, T&T has registered 39 murders in the first 30 days of 2024, while the US and other nations continue to upgrade their crime warnings and travel advisories with respect to this country.
As concerns about crime abound, the Prime Minister has appeared more interested in shooting down the Opposition’s proposals issued through a series of anti-crime talks it is now hosting, than in outlining a clear and proper plan on the way forward.
His return from the US offers another opportunity for him to give the country a proper sense of where we are heading and how enhanced cooperation with the world’s most powerful nation is envisaged, particularly in reducing the drugs that fuel gang warfare and the weapons used to carry out the heinous murders we have seen in the last few years.
Above all, it will be the results in the upcoming months that will surely tell us if these discussions were meaningful or if they redound to just more talk than action.