Interview with Trinidad and Tobago Chief of Defence, Brigadier General Roland Maunday:
By Dialogo March 31, 2011
The Caribbean Nations Security Conference, co-hosted by the United States Southern Command and Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain in February 2011, focused on countering illicit trafficking. Diálogo spoke with Trinidad and Tobago Chief of Defence and conference co-host, Brigadier General Roland Maunday, to discuss this topic and other threats affecting the region such as the spread of criminal gangs.
DIÁLOGO: What are the main security concerns for Trinidad and Tobago at this time?
BRIDADIER GEN. ROLAND MAUNDAY: Like most of the islands of the Caribbean, our problems relate to drugs, guns and ammunition, and the porous borders that we have throughout the region. We need to secure our borders as best as we can, so that we can stem the flow of illicit trafficking across borders of people and drugs. Arms and ammunition play a critical part in crime in Trinidad and Tobago, and as a result, if we are able to stop guns and ammunition from coming here, we may be able stem the level of crime that we have. Because gangs use these weapons, and if you don’t fuel gangs with fire power to fight against one another, we may be able to stabilize the crime situation.
DIÁLOGO: What can the Armed Forces do to counter this problem?
BRIDADIER GEN. ROLAND MAUNDAY: First of all, it’s not really an Armed Forces responsibility. It is a joint responsibility between the Armed Forces and law enforcement. What the Armed Forces bring to the fight is an ability to conduct surveillance on our borders, an ability to bring a particular level of expertise that will add to the law enforcement capabilities in the areas where we will probably assist in fighting the war against crime. We have been able to bring to bear the maritime forces, land forces, and air forces inter capabilities in a joint system. That allows us to fight against this together.
DIÁLOGO: Many countries in the region are discussing whether the Armed Forces should be granted law enforcement authorities to tackle this problem. Would that solve the problem in your opinion?
BRIDADIER GEN. ROLAND MAUNDAY: No, it won’t. The fight against crime requires a different strategy. And in each island state and each nation, each strategy is going to be different. Because our cultures are different, our behavior is different. So I think it’s important for us to understand what will be the best strategy for us to use. I’ve been sitting with the Commissioner of Police together with Customs officials, and we are attempting to put together a strategy that helps us look at the borders, the internal issues, and all the other issues that affect us as a country. Giving me additional powers as a police man will not solve the problem. What you need to do is to use our existing capabilities to the best of our knowledge.
DIÁLOGO: Are you looking at an interagency approach within Trinidad and Tobago?
BRIDADIER GEN. ROLAND MAUNDAY: That’s precisely what it is: a joint interagency approach to fighting crime. Each one of use brings into the mix a particular level of expertise that we can utilize to our benefit. We have been working together with Customs and with Immigration and have been able to find ways to do information sharing. Our intelligence has been very much enhanced, and those are the types of capabilities that you need to have if you’re going to fight crime.
DIÁLOGO: What are the benefits of working with other regional partners and the United States to tackle illicit traffic?
BRIDADIER GEN. ROLAND MAUNDAY: The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, which in itself is tied to the Merida Initiative, has been very successful. What we are hoping is that, like the Merida Initiative, we will be able to come together as countries of the Caribbean and of the Hemisphere and find a way for us to create levels of interoperability across our forces. What I mean is that there should be some standardization on the way we do business. We all have different cultures and everything in our own countries is different, but across the Caribbean we all have the same problem. Therefore, there’s a mutual understanding on what it is we need to deal with and I’m hoping that the United States, Canada, the U.K. and countries like those are able to provide the resources that will reduce crime. Small states in the Caribbean do not have the kind of resource power that our brothers in Europe and North America have.
DIÁLOGO: What resources specifically are you thinking of?
BRIDADIER GEN. ROLAND MAUNDAY: I’m talking about Air, Maritime and Land forces. We are also speaking of the development of the human resource. The expertise that they can bring to us that we need — expertise that assists us to detect and suppress.
DIÁLOGO: What is your forecast for the success of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative? Do you believe there are other measures which can be taken to deal with these issues?
BRIDADIER GEN. ROLAND MAUNDAY: I was involved in some of the discussions regarding the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative when I was in Washington D.C. a year and a half ago, and it is very clinically put together. It is effectively written. We have an understanding of what is required of that Initiative. But more so, there’s an agenda that has been set for 2011. If they follow the particular agenda they have set, I feel each series of discussion will bring about decisions that will be beneficial to us all. Can we do anything else? Yes, we can keep talking. We can keep talking, but at the end of the day what we need to do is to put those talks into action.
DIÁLOGO: What would Trinidad and Tobago bring to the table? What would be your contribution to these efforts, specifically?
BRIDADIER GEN. ROLAND MAUNDAY: Trinidad and Tobago has remained and has always been one of the lead countries in security throughout the Caribbean. I think we should continue to bring our level of leadership. We should be able to bring to the table our learning and our own level of expertise, and as a strong country within the hemisphere, we should be able to bring everyone along with us. There is a need for us to fight crime as one body, rather than as separate entities throughout the Caribbean.
DIÁLOGO: Is there anything else you would like to add?
BRIDADIER GEN. ROLAND MAUNDAY: Yes. We are going to fight crime to the end! The Defense Force together with Police Service does not have an easy task. We are walking into new territory, new areas, so there’s a whole new learning process that we have to take on board. In addition to that, we must not stem the tide of the particular kind of growth I’m looking for. That’s the institutional growth. We must also recognize that there’s a need for us to maintain a relationship between our regional partners, our hemisphere partners, and any new partners who are willing to give us advice to use in the fight against crime.