A Guy’s View: Regional intelligence is crucial
Modern technology and the ease of world-wide travel have made the world a small place. Events in no part of the world are far removed from us here in the Caribbean. This reality must inform all aspects of our lives, both personal and national.
There was a time when events occurring in North America, Europe or further afield, were only for comment of how very different the Caribbean was from these places. Those events did not reflect our lives, hence, we felt no connection to them and were really not concerned. But we know that that is no longer the case. Evidence that we are fully conscious of how we may be impacted by events not immediately in our physical space may be seen in the fear Barbadians are expressing should Donald Trump become the President of the United States.
At times, some of the threats we could face may seem larger than our regular capacity to handle them. Fortunately, regional authorities have not been sleeping on the job and have been putting measures in place to protect their citizens and others who visit our space.
Recently, the Fusion Centre was opened in Barbados. One example that was apparently used in an address at the opening of the Centre was our recent experiences with attacks on banks’ automatic teller machines by criminals from Europe. That these machines in Barbados could come under attack by persons who reside thousands of miles away would not have been contemplated some years ago, but it is something that our authorities and businesses in the financial sector now prepare to confront.
It is also very likely that the perpetrators of these attacks may have carried out similar attacks in some of our neighbouring countries and, were they not caught in Barbados, may have gone on to do more damage elsewhere. A regional sweep of this nature suggests that all of the countries in the region may face similar threats.
The common threats faced by regional states are not limited to raids on automatic teller machines. There are many more security concerns that are of a more grave nature. Just as we are not immune from what happens in places with which we are familiar, neither are we secure from what is happening in places once regarded as more remote parts of the world. Whether we would wish to believe it or not, there is no criminal or terrorist activity from which we are invulnerable.
The Fusion Centre seems to be a response to these issues. This interestingly named entity is a component of the Regional Security System. The Regional Security System has been in existence for quite a few years and has been serving the security interests of its member states of the southern Caribbean. Like all good security functions, this duty is carried out without pomp or fanfare.
Based on media reports, it would seem that the Fusion Centre is an intelligence gathering arm of the Regional Security System. In the modern world, a country’s security is only as good as its intelligence. Applied to us, it is less important how many guns we provide to our security forces than it is to arm them with the capacity and ability to collect the best possible intelligence.
The Fusion Centre tells us a few things. One is that our security is not an exclusive Barbadian effort. It is not even a solely Caribbean effort. The centre was funded by the British Government, according to media reports. This indicates that the British regard it as important to their interest as well.
Thousands of British citizens visit the Caribbean annually. It is important that that country should do whatever is reasonably necessary to keep its people safe wherever they happen to be at any time. This is a demonstration of the British Government’s commitment to its people.
Many Americans, Canadians and persons from other countries also spend time in the Caribbean. Some are long stay visitors, spending days on the islands, and many others come by cruise ship. Although the cruise visitors stay for a shorter time, when they are on the islands they are as much our guests as their long stay counterparts.
As hosts, we have an obligation to look after them, but we have our limitations. A comment attributed to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart acknowledges this fact. He reportedly said that “Although we look to the day when as a sub-region we can firmly stand on our own feet, I believer, quite frankly, that we still need all of the quality assistance we can get. The Caribbean needs all of the tools it can muster to gird itself for the unending struggle to preserve and protect our region from those who persistently traffic drugs, small arms and light weapons and who spread terror.”
Some short-sighted foreign Governments fail to see that it is in their interest to ensure that other countries with which they have relations are economically sound and able to provide their basic needs, especially keeping their states free from social instability and unsustainable rates of crime. One of the effects of this deficiency is the threat that is posed to tourists when they travel to those challenged countries. In extreme cases, these developed states become the heaven for citizens from other countries who cannot provide for themselves at home. This creates other issues.
In the case of the Fusion Centre, it was reported that the British Government provided the financial outlay to fund the construction of the Centre. One should also expect that they would have contributed to the equipping of the facility in other ways. In doing so, they have provided a valuable resource to southern Caribbean states, as well as to Britain itself.
It has been reported that despite the recentcy of the Centre, it has already been producing benefits for Britain. They can already see that their money was well spent.
Our Governments seem to be doing what they need to do to keep us safe. But there is a part for ordinary citizens to play. Persons working in our financial institutions need to be alert to those unusual transactions that could point to troublesome activity. The woman on the Silver Sands bus might see some strange acts that may not be consistent with normal visitor behaviour. The hotel worker should be aware of activity that is inconsistent with regular guest conduct. In essence, all of us must be the eyes and ears that keep our intelligence people informed and our country and visitors safe.