The PM accompanied a team of security officials including National Security Minister John Sandy and Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs at a ceremonial firearms destruction event at the Police Academy in St James.
Yesterday’s event also marked a two-week project run by the United Nations Office for Disarmament’s Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), whose officials were in this country training 60 security sector personnel to destroy firearms and ammunition in cooperation with the Government, as part of joint efforts to combat the illicit trafficking in firearms, strengthen the capacity of the country’s security forces and reduce armed violence in Trinidad and Tobago and the region.
“Some 1,650 firearms have been destroyed to date. I can’t say with any degree of certainty how many at the end of the two-week period, but it could possibly be double that,” Sandy said. He said the destruction of guns would be an ongoing process.
“It’s a step in the right direction, ensuring that we get those off the street and get them destroyed, so they are not going to come back. In the old days, we’d go out to Teteron and go somewhere out in the Gulf and dump, but now this is a little more precise in terms of finality,” Sandy said.
In her address, Persad-Bissessar said 2,577 illegal guns were seized between 2006 and 2010. This suggests a thriving gun-trade, she said. In cutting up the guns, Persad-Bissessar led UNLIREC regional head, Agnes Marcaillou; Head of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Col Kenrick Maharaj, Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs; Deputy Commissioner Jack Ewatski.
She told reporters the cut-up guns would then be melted down at a smelter. The event programme said the project saw training given to members of the Police Service, Defence Force, Prison Service and Fire Service.
Marcaillou hailed TT for keeping its word and showing determination to do this project within a year of making a commitment. She likened illicit guns to a cancer from which nowhere is immune.
“UNLIREC has assessed nine Caribbean countries’ practices, capacities and standards in the registration, collection, and storage of firearms and ammunition,” said Marcaillou. “We have also provided Caribbean national authorities with training as well as technical assistance to destroy States surplus, obsolete and confiscated firearms, ammunition and explosives.”
She said gun stockpiles are a major source of illegal weapons. “Destruction is irreversible, hence the best way to ensure that surplus weapons and illicit firearms including those confiscated from criminals do not find their way back into the hands of those who threaten the lives of the innocent and the security of communities.”
United States diplomat, David Wolfe, said the project was done with funding from TT, the US and Canada. He hoped it would be a model for other Caribbean countries.