Prime Minister Freundel Stuart greets US Attorney General, Eric Holder, ahead of talks at Ilaro Court. (A. Gaskin/BGIS??

"Security of the region and the maintenance of law and order are paramount now and for the future of this country and the wider Caribbean."

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart made this clear to visiting US Attorney General, Eric Holder, during talks today at his official residence, Ilaro Court. And, to buttress this view, he said: "It is, therefore, important that we connect the maintenance of law and order to our economic and social development. For that reason," he noted, "Barbados has to invest substantially in the maintenance of law and order."

The Barbados and United States delegations in discussion at Ilaro Court. (A.Gaskin/BGIS)

The hour-long cordial meeting came against a background of what Prime Minister Stuart termed "good, long and enduring relations that exist between the two countries."

In supporting the Prime Minister’s position on heightened regional security, Attorney General Holder stressed that the US was working with their counterparts and related agencies in the Caribbean to support law enforcement efforts. "It is in our national security interest to do this," he said, "and we have to bring our shared experiences to bear on the counter measures to be employed, if we are to prevail."

Mr. Holder specifically mentioned that the region as a whole had to strengthen its counter terrorism methods as well as its port, customs and immigration security. He promised US assistance with the latter and assured "I will take your concerns back to Washington."

In this regard, the Prime Minister adverted to the fact that Barbados was seeking to beef-up the marine branch of the Royal Barbados Police Force and the Coast Guard division of the Barbados Defence Force. "Capacity has to be built in these areas, if we are to successfully pursue and apprehend those persons who would want to use our waters to carry out their illegal activity," he said, noting that he had raised the matter last year with former US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, who had proffered a sympathetic ear.

Mr. Stuart, however, posited that there was a need to "get up front at the real causes of the prevailing criminal activities in the region, so as to minimise their effects." Acknowledging that there were limited resources available to adequately fight these issues, he called for more training opportunities and technical assistance to be provided in Barbados and for the Regional Security System "to strengthen our capacity. We must have the technology as well as the know-how," the Prime Minister, himself a former Attorney General, stressed.

Prime Minister Stuart recalled that while he was in Washington, last May, there was a sense of urgency to activate the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative to address these issues. "We are located between South America, whence the drugs come, and the north, where they are consumed, and that in itself shows up our vulnerability."

Mr. Holder said he was looking forward to tackling these matters later in the day [when he sits down] with the Attorneys General (AGs) from the region. "I plan to listen to our partners [regional AGs] and hope we can embrace their ideas in the decision making and come up with concrete measures to address the issues," he said.

The Attorney General reaffirmed that Barbados and the US "must maintain the strong ties we have, since they have worked to our mutual benefit."


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