Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with profound gratitude that I stand here today to address you not only as the President of the Caribbean federation of Police Welfare Associations but because so many of my fellow countrymen are here working and making an invaluable contribution to the Turks and Caicos Police Force and by extension the whole island. This is a historic moment for me because it’s the first time I am coming to this island and it’s also the first time that CFPWA is hosting its meeting here. I would like to congratulate and thank the former chairman Mr. Alvirto Smith who ceased the opportunity at the first moment to host us. The present chairman Inspector Winston Diamond who took over from Mr. Smith embraced the idea and ran with it and here we are today. However, this would not have all been possible without the support from Commissioner Smith who has shown very positive energies towards this Federation as he sees the importance of it.
The CFPWA can do a tremendous job to help change the landscape of the ever changing face of policing. It is seen as the umbrella body to assist the weaker associations some of whom are plagued by hierarchal pressure and political interference. This federation can achieve quite a lot if only we put as much effort and dedication into it as we do with our local association. What we do among ourselves tells a lot about the survival of this federation. I say this to let the bigger countries understand that you are not superior to any other country, no matter the population size. Don’t think for one moment that the smaller countries cannot manage the affairs of this organization, as I am from a country that is very small and have been very instrumental in keeping this institution together. Selfishness and self-gain has no place in this Federation. I remember recently, this federation was offered an excellent package by a university which, if we had capitalized on, would have tremendously benefited police forces throughout the region, however, one member country sought to negotiate on their own country’s behalf, undermining the work of the federation and looking to gain personal leverage from it. This type of behavior will do no good for the federation. We must fight for better working and living conditions for all members and to ensure that there are occupational safety laws in place for our members while at work. We must ensure that our countries are signatory to the Geneva Convention on hours of work. This is a serious issue at home where some police officers are still working for 144 per week. I must say however that the new leadership is making efforts to change this.
If we embrace selfishness we too as a police federation will fail just as the then political federation of the Caribbean did. We must be unwavering in looking at the interest of all police officers throughout the entire Caribbean as they are deserving of it.
This was evident when in 2017, myself and other members of my local executive had a combined of eight discipline charges lead against us due to a leaked voice note by one of our executive member during a WhatsApp executive group meeting. This was viewed by many as persecution rather than prosecution. Although these matters are still pending, we stand firm in the commitment for equal rights and justice for our members. Special recognition must be given to our first vice-president Anand Ramesar, who lead a party of CFPWA executives and members to St. Vincent in support of the local membership which included Raymond Thom, Claudina Morgan and Tammie-Ann Brookes Gordon. This I assure you members help boast the moral of the local executive and general members of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Welfare Association to which we say thank you.
The issue of funding continues to affect the smooth running of the Federation. The new executive will have to create new and innovative ways to support this institution for its survival as the union dues, which are paid only by some countries is not substantial. I humbly suggest that the draft magazine which will be presented at this meeting, be used as an opportunity to raise funds. Companies and other businesses can advertise with us, which would benefit both the company and the CFPWA. The host country of these events must organize fund raising activities as part of the cfpwa agenda during their conference and must also reach out to community groups and organizations that have similar agenda to ours.
The dynamics of policing is changing rapidly each day with serious heinous crimes on the increase. The question is do we have a role as a federation to fight against this? The simple answer is yes! We have a big role to play since our first objective is to protect our citizens of our various territories and to assist the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police in the development of new and existing policies. Our roles are huge but we can do it only if we are not selfish and are focused on the bigger picture.
To the new incoming president and members of the executive, there seem to be a rape culture and sexual abuse in the Caribbean, not only to our women police but women in general by powerful men. Our women must be valued with a sense of pride and dignity. I was appalled very recently by an interview done by Brian Alexander of St Vincent and the Grenadines, with a lady Marsha Hinds of Barbados who said and I quote “ if I had the choice to leave home my breast and buttocks, I would have done so because all women are seen as sexual objects”. This federation has a very important role to educate our men and to give our ladies more support and love and be prepared to deal with sexual offences that are reported to us by our female officers and members of the public at any level.
In 2012, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada started the Commissioner’s Miller Clarkson Trophy which evolved in the Regional Security Cricket Competition for Police Officers. Few years later, Trinidad and Tobago joined the competition which was later renamed the Regional Police Cricket Tournament. This sporting activity has tremendous benefit for law enforcement officers and I am appealing to CFPWA to work along closely with the committee.
Ladies and Gentlemen this will be my final address as President of this noble organization. I have served as President for two consecutive terms as stipulated by the constitution. It would be remiss of me however, if I didn’t thank our founding fathers for their outstanding contribution since its inception on the 25th May, 2007. But before I do that I must thank the Almighty God for his blessings and mercies and for allowing me to serve this organization from its inception. I would like to thank Mr. Hartley Reid and Michael Sobers of the Barbados Police Force, Mr. Dwight Smith of the Bahamas Police Force, Amanda Hermonstine of Guyana, My good friend Raymond Wilson from the Jamaica Constabulary Linford Cummings of Grenada, John David of Dominica and Daniel Prescott of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It is also imperative that I thank Martin James of St. Lucia, Lindon Isaac of Antigua, and Jefferson Drigo of Dominica who assisted in 2012 to revitalize the Federation after a 5 year dormancy. Thanks to our first president Mr. Richard Corbette of Trinidad and Tobago for his support and advised over the years. Last but not least, I must also thank the entire executive who served with me during my tenure. Special thanks also to our competent Secretary/Manager Ms. Donique Billingy who worked with distinction at the temporary secretariat in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. As I make my departure I would leave you with this quote “Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success” Henry Forde.