I am pleased to join with the 52 members of the Commonwealth, and its 2.4 billion citizens, in commemorating Commonwealth Day 2017, under the theme “A Peace-Building Commonwealth”.
The theme of “peace-building” reaffirms the Commonwealth Charter principle that “international peace and security, sustainable economic growth and development and the rule of law are essential to the progress and prosperity of all”.
The theme is pertinent, in light of increasing tensions and uncertainty in today’s world, as well as what we are experiencing right here at home in Trinidad and Tobago.
Our country, like so many others across the globe, is faced with the threat of terrorism, and a comprehensive plan is needed to work with other States in the global fight on terror. In fact, under the government I led, Trinidad and Tobago took steps to stop our citizens from leaving their homeland to join international terrorist organizations such as ISIS, by co-sponsoring UN Resolution S/2014/688 in 2014. By this action, Trinidad and Tobago committed to work with countries to share information, which would help our ability to conduct criminal investigations or proceedings relating to the financing and other support given to terrorists as the resolution mandates States to exchange information and monitor the transit of terrorists across borders.
The situation today is different, and troubling, as the Government appears out of its depth, and our counter terrorism battle seems lost. The Opposition will continue to push for proactive measures to be taken dealing with this critical issue, which can have long term effects on our country’s economy.
In addition to dealing with the threat to our peace and stability that terrorism poses, Trinidad and Tobago continues to grapple with rising criminal activity which threatens our citizens’ safety and security. While significant progress was made under my administration in the fight against crime and ensuring a more secure environment for the people of Trinidad and Tobago, many of the initiatives that were put in place are being dismantled, and the effects of this are being felt each day, as crime levels continue to escalate to unacceptable levels.
I endorse the sentiments of The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth when she said:
“A Peace-building Commonwealth’ starts with each one of us taking individual responsibility, then joining with others so that with mutual support and encouragement we share the good from home to community, then ever more widely to the world”.
We each have a role to play in bringing an end to the violence in our society, and I call on the Government to work with all relevant stakeholders, including the Opposition, in developing effective solutions, and to taking bold and decisive action in dealing with the pressing problem of crime in our nation.
As we mark Commonwealth Day today, let us recommit to work towards lasting peace and security in our homes, our communities, our country, and also within the international community, to realize “a peace-building Commonwealth”.