Task force posits intelligence units, alternative sentences By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
July 5, 2002

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The CARICOM Regional Task Force on Security and Crime has recommended the establishment of crime commissions, national intelligence units and parliamentary oversight committees to deal with matters of security, crime and violence in the various jurisdictions.

At a media briefing held at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel yesterday, Prime Minister of Belize, Said Musa, said that the heads were presented with the executive summary of the report. The report contains 100 recommendations.

The task force was set up as mandated by the Heads of Government at the last summit held in the Bahamas last year, to deal with the issue of crime and security in the region which was seen as an impediment to the economic and social development of the region.

And in the wake of an invasion of the Office of the President by anti-government protesters on Wednesday, which resulted in two of them being killed, Musa said that CARICOM could not condone the change of governments by violent means.

Musa, the outgoing CARICOM chairman, said that member states were committed to the Democratic Charter agreed to under the auspices of the Organisation of American States. The charter precludes condoning or accepting the idea that governments could be changed by violent means. He said that at the recent Rio Summit in Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of CARICOM, Belize took a very principled position that it could not condone the recent, brief overthrow of the Venezuelan government.

Other recommendations put forward by the Security Task Force included community policing and better relationships between the police and citizens; alternative sentencing to deal with petty crimes and legislation to give effect to alternative sentencing. Alternative sentencing, Musa said, would afford the police the opportunity to deal with serious crimes such as drug trafficking.

Prison reform and the speeding up of court procedures were other recommendations. Musa said there was the feeling in the region that the whole justice system had to be reconstructed to speed up court procedures.

To enhance national security there were recommendations for proper border patrols; enactment of legislation to hinder terrorist operations; institutional building and adoption of cross-sectoral responses.

Musa said crime had two faces and the Task Force sought to deal with the issue through its root causes, that is, in the first instance by fighting poverty and creating employment and secondly by instituting proper action in terms of dealing with criminals.

Asked about the deportee issue, Musa said that the Caribbean and Central America should be comparing notes as they were faced with the identical problem. He noted that El Salvador "gets hundreds of deportees almost on a weekly basis if not monthly." The majority of the deportees, he noted, have had their education in sophisticated criminal activities in places like Los Angeles and New York and were "just sent back to our countries."

Few countries, he said, had been able to work out agreements with the United States on how to handle the issue of deportees, but there was still need for a general regional policy.

One suggestion, he said, was that if the deportees had not served their full time there should be prisoner exchange agreements, in which they could be sent back to continue their sentences, instead of going straight onto the streets.

Commenting on the implementation of the recommendations in view of the security concerns relating to arms, drug trafficking and other issues, Musa said the Heads of Government were aware of the general complaint from the region that CARICOM was famous for designing programmes and making decisions but on the issue of implementation had been sadly lacking in many respects.

With the report and recommendations on security and crime tabled, Musa said, Heads will have to now concentrate on the implementation.