T&T has officially signed on to Mexico’s legal challenge which seeks to hold private US gun manufacturers to account for their part in creating a flow of arms and ammunition to the region.
Other Caricom countries, including Jamaica, The Bahamas and Antigua and Barbuda, have already signed on to the case, which is being pursued in the US courts, as well.
Speaking at a PNM public meeting on March 10, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had noted that Mexico made a request to Caricom to join the legal action, adding at the time that he T&T was actively considering it, “to test the legality of those who make those weapons of war that are destroying our societies—we have to join that fight.”
Rowley also promised to address the matter with leaders at a regional crime symposium next month.
Speaking with Guardian Media yesterday, Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne said not much was required from the country to join the case.
“All we are required to do is to provide a diplomatic note and a clear indication to the legal team that is carrying the case on behalf of the Mexican government. We’ve done that,” Browne said.
He said it was part and parcel of a multi-dimensional approach to addressing the scourge of violent crime in Trinidad and Tobago and across the Caricom region.
He said it’s important to note that T&T is not isolated in the fight against crime and violent crime.
“A number of heads of government in our region have agreed that this is one opportunity for us to unite, present a common face to the elements that would be contributing to the challenge that we are facing as small societies in the Western Hemisphere,” Browne noted.
The Bahamas’ Office of the Prime Minister first issued a statement on the matter on Tuesday, announcing the countries that would take part in Mexico’s case.
The Mexican complaint, it said, centred on whether the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects gun manufacturers from civil liability if their products are used in the commission of a crime, extends to harms caused by the criminal use of weapons in Mexico.
Seven major gun manufacturers, one gun wholesaler and a distributor are named in the US$10 billion suit, which has already been dismissed by a US district court in Massachusetts. Mexico has appealed and this is what it is seeking regional support for.
The announcement comes as Caricom leaders are prepared to meet for a two-day symposium to discuss crime as a public health issue.
The regional symposium will take place on April 17th and 18th.
Dr Browne yesterday told Guardian Media that so far, there have been commitments by heads of government from St Vincent and the Grenadines, The Bahamas, Jamaica and Guyana, with more expected to sign on in the coming weeks.
“I don’t want to be definitive because responses to our Prime Minister’s invitations to his fellow heads of government are still coming in,” Browne said.
The symposium came out of talks held during the recently concluded 44th Conference of the Heads of Government of Caricom in The Bahamas.
There’s still no word on if officials from the US have been invited or will attend the symposium, since much of the discussion will focus on the free flow of guns into the Caribbean and South America from the United States. But Browne said there is widespread agreement with the vision for the symposium.
“Commissioners of police, various Caricom organs that are focused on crime, Caricom Impacs, and other entities are all coming to bear to ensure that this symposium is a meaningful one. It’s not just a talk shop,” Browne said.