Date: October 24 th, 2019
Eight (8) weeks later (22nd October 2019), the Minister of National Security, Hon. Stuart Young has finally acknowledged receipt of our stakeholder’s correspondence dated August 26th, 2019, regarding the appointment of a multi-stakeholder committee to consider easy to implement recommendations for “security at sea”.
Minister Young refers to our recommendations stating that ‘much of it has been publicly suggested by me already’. Nevertheless, three (3) months have passed since the largest mass murder in our history and our Minister has not made public what has been done to implement his ‘own’ recommendations. Can the Hon. Minister please advise our Nation which of our twelve (12) recommendations which ‘he’ has “suggested” has been implemented? The longer Minister Young takes to implement safety at sea measures, the more seafarer’s lives are at risk.
Presently we are stuck with a Government and Minister that is locking out our vulnerable primary stakeholders. One year ago, on November 7th, 2018, Minister Young stated that “Cabinet has taken a decision to restore fourteen (14) Coast Guard (CG) interceptors… in the shortest possible time”. To date, there has been no public announcement on whether these interceptors have been repaired. Two (2) were sent to Tobago in April 2019. While seafarers’ lives continue to be threatened, Minister Young has not stated where are the other twelve (12) interceptors. Minister Young in his letter confirms that the “coastal radar system is operational and is being utilized” and says that our “continued public pronouncement that it is not should cease”. Minister Young misses our point.
We respectfully ask:- if our radar system is “operational and …utilised”, then why hasn’t the Coast Guard and Police been able to trace, recover or intercept any of the countless stolen or smugglers vessels? With an invasion of human and non-human cargo crossing our borders daily, how can the public have confidence in our Government? Minister Young in his budget debate and on a recent political platform continues to question the integrity of all of our fisherfolk, suggesting that we are all smugglers and that he has the “evidence to substantiate everything”.
Was this the reason for the delayed rescue operations for our seven (7) murdered brothers in Orange Valley? If the Minister of National Security has such evidence, why is he not acting on it? Making bold statements that contradict what is happening on the ground is causing panic for all. FFOS does not represent the marine mafia and has never condoned illegal conduct. Instead FFOS continues to appeal to our Government to consider easy to implement, practical, and cost-effective measures that could save lives at sea.
Primary stakeholders must be encouraged to meaningfully contribute to public wellbeing and the protection of our vulnerable and innocent. Unless our Government act with accountability, transparency and a sense of inclusion, the murders, the state of collapse and general dilapidation of our country and of confidence in the future of our country will continue. To our Right Hon. Prime Minister, and head of the National Security Council, we still await your acknowledgment or response to our letter dated August 26th, 2019 and our several subsequent weekly “gentle reminders”.
Sincerely, Gary Aboud