IF THE Tivoli Gardens insurgency did nothing else, it should have concentrated minds on the weakness of the Jamaican state and its vulnerability to open and violent challenges, including from narco-terrorists.
Our security forces prevailed against the insurgents who rallied to defend reputed crime boss Christopher Coke, who is on the run, attempting to avoid extradition to the United States (US) to answer drug and gun-smuggling charges. And his command structure has been destroyed in the west Kingston community, which has been liberated from his arbitrary rule.
But while gains have been made against the gunmen who held so much sway in Tivoli Gardens and elsewhere in Jamaica, it remains obvious that our security forces lack the numbers and material for the sustained assault necessary for a quick destruction of the criminal gangs that hold the country to ransom.
The threat they pose, though, is not unique to Jamaica, but is faced, to varying degrees, across the Caribbean. Ironically, the uprising by Coke's confederates coincided with a meeting in Washington that was attended by Jamaica's national security minister, Dwight Nelson, to discuss the very issue, and to plan cooperation strategies.
The Jamaican government has not reported on the Washington session or a June 10 meeting in Barbados between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Caribbean Community (Caricom) foreign ministers, where security matters were again high on the agenda.
But if Minister Nelson and Foreign Minister Ken Baugh have proffered any advice to their Cabinet colleagues, it should include the suggestion that Jamaica suspend those constraining notions of nationalism and sovereignty and draw closer to mutual security-assistance mechanisms that exist in the region.
Or, to put it bluntly, they should tell Prime Minister Bruce Golding that Jamaica should become part of the Regional Security System (RSS), a 28-year-old arrangement between six independent members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and Barbados.
The RSS covers a range of cooperation issues, including some that are similar to those Jamaica is already party to under Caricom's framework for the management of crime and security. Indeed, Caricom has a standing Council of Ministers for National Security and Law Enforcement, whose concentration is primarily technical cooperation and information and strategy issues.
The RSS, however, goes further. It allows for, among other things, actual boots on the ground during security crises, such as when OECS troops went to Barbados earlier in the decade when Bridgetown's security forces became stretched during a big prison break.
Clearly, none of the OECS members has large defence forces or unlimited resources. But a contingent of a few well-trained soldiers from the eastern Caribbean would, in the current circumstances, make a difference to the stretched Jamaica Defence Force, if only to protect sensitive installations during critical operations.
Indeed, not only should Jamaica enter the RSS, but Kingston should use its leverage in Caricom to promote the deepening and widening of the regional security arrangements. The community's other big players, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname, should be part of the system.
Such an arrangement is not outside the remit of Caricom, with its advanced economic and political cooperation structures. Given the real dangers faced by the regions, security should follow.
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