Thu | Dec 8, 2016

CARICOM soft target for ISIS?

Published:Sunday | March 1, 2015 | 12:00 AMChristopher Bryan
In this June 16, 2014 AP file photo, demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group, slogans as they carry the group's flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, northwest of Baghdad, Iraq.

Groups such as ISIS, emanating out of the Middle East, and Boko Haram, from Central Africa, are driving tremendous fear, causing death and destruction of property all in the aim of religious identity.

These groups are so well resourced, their monstrous acts seem unstoppable and they may just reach the Caribbean islands in their quest for identity. The Caribbean, therefore, must be proactive in reinforcing its security architecture to gather and track intelligence on their modus operandi to secure the Caribbean and its people.

Jim Phillips, Middle East analyst, noted that the two groups are very similar in one sense: they intimidate and brainwash young people and turn them into suicide bombers.

What then may be at stake for the Caribbean? Is there a likely security threat? Does the Caribbean have a Regional Security System (RSS) at work tracking the threats and trends of security issues and effectively coordinating with partners in preparing strategic approaches to these issues? How are Caribbean people being kept abreast of security issues surrounding us?

According to CARICOM, the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) is the nerve centre of the Caribbean's new multilateral crime and security management architecture.

The question is, is this agency at work?

Former Ambassador Odeen Ishmael of Guyana, at the Meeting of the Committee on Hemispheric Security of the OAS Washington, DC, in October 2002, gave a historical perspective of some aspects regarding the evolution of the traditional form of military security for the protection of sovereignty in CARICOM.

He pointed out that over the past 40-odd years, some states of the Caribbean have faced threats to their security in the form of direct invasion, mercenary attack, incursion and intervention. He also noted that there has always been the threat of secession, especially in multi-island states. In 1967, he said, Anguilla successfully seceded from the colony of St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla. The Anguilla secession was one of the earliest and most serious threats to the territorial integrity of a Caribbean state.

Separatist sentiments, he argued, have been expressed in the islands of Nevis, Barbuda and Tobago, and these resulted in special constitutional measures for the devolution of power in those islands. In 1969, he pointed out, an unsuccessful violent secessionist rebellion broke out in the Rupununi region of Guyana. Another threat faced by Caribbean states, he highlighted, is that of infiltration, initially with a criminal purpose, which can lead to destabilisation. This, he warned, may come in the form of narco-trafficking, smuggling of other commercial contraband commodities and illegal fishing in a country's territorial waters.

 

LOCAL THREAT

 

Importantly, he cautioned that another threat is that of insurrection carried out by local bands of dissidents and organised criminal gangs with the aim of replacing the government. Such threatened actions include coups d'Ètat, military mutinies and revolts.

Efforts, he found, have been made since the early 1970s for the establishment of a collective security mechanism in the region. One such effort, he enunciated, was in October 1981 when The Bahamas, Barbados, Britain, Canada, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago agreed to consult on appropriate action to be taken in the event of a threat to the independence of Belize. However, the defence aspect of the pact was never put into force.

The most successful step in forming a regional security system, he believed, came about in July 1981 when the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) was formed. The islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent all wanted to promote a common defence, and the treaty establishing the OECS called for the setting up of a collective defence system.

Ambassador Ishmael reminded that the issue of regional military security became a matter of grave concern when a small insurrectionist group held the Government of Trinidad and Tobago hostage in July 1990. Immediately after the rebels surrendered, Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford of Barbados made a strong demand for the establishment of a system of collective security to prevent the recurrence of what transpired in Trinidad. He called for the expansion and consolidation of the existing RSS in the Eastern Caribbean to include as many CARICOM states as possible. He suggested that the RSS be given the authority and resources to deal with all aspects of regional security including the interdiction of drug trafficking, surveillance of the coastal zones, mutual assistance in the event of national disasters, as well as threats to constitutional democracy from criminals, terrorists, mercenaries and other enemies of democracy.

Ironically, the executive summary from the CARICOM Crime and Security Strategy 2013, stated that the ideals of the CARICOM integration movement and the pillars of its foundation can only be realised in a safe and secure Community.

The CARICOM Crime and Security Strategy constitutes a historic and defining moment for the Community in clearly articulating its security interests within the wider context of the shifting balance of global geopolitical power, increasing market competitiveness, public debt financing and profound economic uncertainties, threats of climate change and scarcity of key resources.

This situation is further exacerbated by the profound influence of new technology and social media, the increasingly asymmetric nature of conflict, and the growing power of non-state actors, including transnational organised crime.

The report also pointed out that the multidimensional and multifaceted nature of the risks and threats faced by CARICOM member states are increasingly interconnected, cross-cutting, network-centric and transnational. The repercussions of emerging threats now propagate rapidly around the world, so that events in any part of the world are now far more likely to have immediate consequences for the Caribbean.

In recognising the reluctance of Caribbean governments over the years to address crime effectively, Ivelaw Griffiths pointed out that over two decades ago, most Caribbean leaders were reluctant to accept that their countries were facing a drug threat. Therefore, he noted that over the years the scope and severity of the threat increased and became partially obvious to observe within and outside the region.

 

RSS Must be proactive

 

Since the advent of global-isation in the 1990s, the global space has almost been redefined to a community with inter-connectedness through the vast technological innovations which facilitate easier and faster networking between and among groups and individuals. Therefore, criminal gangs and terrorist groups have organised to operate through transnational networks. Their motive is to carry out deviant acts across borders and within respective regions and local territories.

This is tantamount to a world entrapped by deviant actors and facilitators who are defiant in creating their own space with no regard for the welfare and security of the people and law and order.

It is of significant importance, therefore, that the Caribbean, which is a weak region in its security capacity and capabilities, take a proactive approach and strengthen its security architecture to build its intelligence-gathering capacity by coordinating with other international agencies in order to collect information on any threats from ISIS or Boko Haram.

We must learn our lesson from world trends as well as from the experiences of other countries. Therefore, the Caribbean must now start engaging in discussions surrounding our security posture and empower IMPACS.

- Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and christopher.bryan@lime.com.