As the country continues to grapple with the importation of illegal firearms, Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield said, The Bahamas, along with other countries in the region, have been ignored by the United States (U.S.), Canada and the United Kingdom (U.K.), in trying to mitigate the problem.
His comments came during the wrap up of the 21st meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The two-day event was focused on key issues affecting the region including national security and border patrol.
“Two things happened at this conference that encouraged us,” Henfield said.
“We saw what we believed to be a commitment from the United States to deliberately engage us now. They are cognizant that The Bahamas is its third boarder and The Bahamas is faced with a challenge that we don’t import guns.
When asked if the U.S., along with Canada and the U.K., were doing enough to put an end to the importation of illegal weapons in small island developing states (SIDs) including The Bahamas, Henfield said, he believes they have not.
“We (COFCOR) didn’t think, as a group, that they have engaged us as efficiently as they ought to and this is a point that we continue to agitate to them to have these discussions,” he said.
“I think it’s because they have other interest… Post Cold War, dynamics change. Strategies change of big countries. And so, we are appreciative of the fact that they now recognize that they have been ignoring us somewhat.”
The foreign affairs minister noted that this age-old problem has been wreaking havoc on communities in the region for decades, but discussions have not abated the challenges.
“We are losing our young men to violence all across the region and we continue to ask the U.S. and other countries for assistance in trying to mitigate this problem,” he said.
“We have similar security interest; no one country can defend its boarders by itself, especially if its boarders are shared.”
He also pointed out that the U.S. recently passed “Caribbean 2020” legislation that is expected to provide some technical assistance in this regard, but those initiatives, he said, will have to be explored.
“Invariably, if bigger countries help us to lift, they become more secure. Canada and the U.S appreciate it that many things pass through the Caribbean of a nefarious nature and sometimes they are working their way north. And so, it puts a burden on our small states to police our maritime domains and we have to bring that to their attention,” he said.
Henfield said it is hoped that participating countries will be more engaged moving forward.