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Nat’l Assembly approves ratification of UN Arms Trade Treaty

Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett (GINA photo)

Guyana’s National Assembly has unanimously passed a motion for the government to ratify the UN Arms Trade Treaty which the country signed on to earlier this month.

Leading the debate on Thursday Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett noted that the Treaty was the first legally binding multilateral agreement to regulate the international trade in conventional arms.

The Treaty seeks to “establish the highest possible common international standards for regulating or improving the regulation of the international trade in conventional arms and to prevent and eradicate illicit trade and its diversion.”

It also seeks to contribute to international and regional peace, security and stability by promoting cooperation, transparency and responsible action by States Parties in the conventional arms trade.

“Once effectively implemented it will make a real and positive difference for millions of people around the world, especially those who live in conflict areas,” Rodrigues-Birkett said.

Conventional arms cover battle tanks; armoured combat vehicles; large artillery systems; combat aircraft; attack helicopters; warships; missiles and missile launchers; and small arms and light weapons.

The minister said the last category was of particular concern to the CARICOM members who worked to ensure it was included in the Treaty.

She noted that the Treaty also covered the movement of ammunition parts and components and added that it was unfortunate that the opposition had voted against a bill to address the same issue.

‘If it’s possible … we should try to correct the situation because I think it would be a major contradiction to what we’re saying as a country and what we’re actually doing,” the foreign minister said.

The opposition parties had voted down the bill and several others in keeping with a promise to block legislation in the name of Clement Rohee as long as he performed the functions of Home Affairs Minister. The parties say they have no confidence in his handling of the portfolio.

In offering his party’s support the AFC’s Moses Nagamootoo said signing on was an act of courage but must be followed with action.

“It is a truism that the transnational criminal enterprise thrive on the basis of guns for coke and coke for guns and we in Guyana we have to see the nexus between the narco-criminal trade and arms trade and we have to be condign in dealing with the proceeds of narco-criminals,” he said.

The AFC MP also linked it to the fight against corruption saying that if there was no will to counter it then signing international treaties was a waste of time.

Meanwhile, APNU’s Winston Felix also questioned whether there was a commitment to implement the requirements of the Treaty. He pointed to Guyana’s porous borders, the several gun massacres and piracy, stating that it was in the country’s best interest to cooperate with the international fight.

“We hope that this motion receives the full support of government and that they bring the legislation to this parliament to give effect to the Treaty which is what is required to make the Treaty operable in Guyana.”

Wrapping up the debate Rodrigues-Birkett said that up to that time none of the 74 signatories to the Treaty had ratified it and with the House’s approval Guyana could be the first country to do so on Friday.

The UN General Assembly adopted the Treaty on April 2, 2013 with 154 countries voting in favour of it, three against and 23 abstentions.