NASSAU, The Bahamas -International cooperation in criminal matters and the sharing of intelligence and special investigative techniques are critical to the war on national, regional and global terrorism, Minister of National Security the Hon. O.A.T. “Tommy” Turnquest said Tuesday.
Mr. Turnquest was addressing regional national security officials attending a major anti-terror workshop which opened Tuesday in New Providence.
Addressing the Opening Session of the Specialized Workshop on the Prevention and Fight against Terrorism and its Financing, Mr. Turnquest said international cooperation is the only way regional and world countries can stamp out terrorism.
Sponsored by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Inter-American Committee on Terrorism (CICTE), the four-day workshop will examine the legal framework and mechanisms for international cooperation in the War on Terror.
The Bahamas currently serves as Vice-Chair of CICTE and will assume the role of Chair in March 2010.
Mr. Turnquest said Bahamian officials are “deeply concerned” about the indiscriminate nature of terrorism, even though country has not been directly impacted by major acts of terror.
“We only need to reflect on the disastrous 9/11 terror attacks on the United States to appreciate how such acts can reverberate around the world and throw the economies of neighboring countries into crisis,” Mr. Turnquest said.
“Acts of Terror destroy lives, engenders and fans the flames of conflict, destabilizes governments and civil society, weakens economies and retards economic and social development. It has, and continues to, wreak havoc on developed and developing countries alike,” Mr. Turnquest added.
The National Security Minister said the country’s proactive approach to the War on Terror is exemplified by the fact that officials from three key national security and law enforcement branches – Police and Defence Forces and the Department of Customs, are in attendance.
He said their participation is a further reflection of the “network” national security and law enforcement officials are seeking to develop at the national level to combat terrorism through inter-agency cooperation.
Mr. Turnquest said the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the country’s maritime law enforcement agency charged with policing its seas and protecting its porous borders, has incorporated an Anti-Terrorism Unit since 2007.
“The mandate of this Unit is to suppress and combat terrorism acts within The Bahamas territory,” he said.
The Royal Bahamas Police Force, through its Financial Intelligence Unit, is charged with receiving, analyzing, obtaining and dissemination of information on proceeds derived from offenses under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Other counter-terrorism measures have been put in place by the Police Force.
“The Department of Customs, implements recommendations of the World Customs Organization to counter terrorism,” Mr. Turnquest added.
The National Security Minister told delegates that The Bahamas is committed to ensuring that readiness to combat terrorism, remains at the forefront of the national, regional and hemispheric agenda.
He said the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act became part of the Statute Laws of The Bahamas on December 31, 2004, but was amended in October, 2009 to now include the 12 universal anti-terrorism conventions to which The Bahamas is a States Party.
The 12 Conventions address acts and offences against aircraft, in airports and against internationally protected persons, including diplomatic agents, and the taking of hostages, in addition to a number of other measures including the financing of terrorism.
“The Anti-terrorism Act, in addition to incorporating the Conventions, makes provision for action over a broad range of anti-terrorism issues including the prevention, detection and combating of terrorism,” Mr. Turnquest added.