Terrorism is a very real threat to Barbados, even if this country is not considered on the frontlines, Government Senators declared as they approved measures to combat terrorism financing.
In the Upper Chamber they moved to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing in changes to the Customs Act and the Anti-terrorism Act.
Recalling the first terrorist incident here – the bombing of the Cubana airliner off the west coast in 1976, Acting Leader of Government Business in the Senate Senator Lucille Moe said the way in which terrorist attacks are funded and carried out has changed tremendously in the last 40 years.
“The world has changed since 1976, so a lot of what was done then in terms of financing is done differently, in terms of how funds are gathered and used, so these pieces of legislation address this.
“The reality is, once you have been affected by terrorist activity of any type, you have to be proactive to ensure that legislation and activities related to it in a modern environment are addressed, you cannot wait till something happens to take action,” She said.
Senator Lisa Cummins noted that she saw firsthand the consequences of terrorist acts on everyday lives when she took up a job assignment in the United States shortly after the September 11, 2001 bombings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
She declared: “My aunt knew a lady who worked in the restaurant at the World Trade Center who perished in that incident because she had come into work earlier than normal to take up a different shift.
“And when I started working with the Organisation of American States shortly after that, it was in the middle of the anthrax scare, where people had to wear gloves to do simple everyday tasks like opening letters.
“Also, because I was based in Washington DC, which was the other Ground Zero point, the evacuation plans for the city meant that my daughter and I would have to go in different directions, and she was only three years old at the time.”
Senator Dr Romell Springer said that while at one time terrorist acts in the western world were often attributed to groups from the Middle East and other “trouble spots”, the US had become increasingly concerned about domestic terrorists who use the internet to spread their hate propaganda.
He said: “We live in a global community, so there is a level of interconnectivity between Barbados, the region and the rest of the world.
“In the US they are now talking about domestic terrorism, while previously they only talked about Islamic terrorism as that was the most prevalent, but the truth is everyone can be a terrorist once they have some cause they are passionate enough about to die for or kill other people for.”
Senator Springer added he was pleased that the new legalisation made provision for people who might have been connected to terrorist groups but did not necessarily get involved in any life-threatening activities.
He told the Senate: “If a person is investigated and found to be linked to terrorist acts whether via financing or being directly involved in terms of having trained or fought in an ongoing conflict, that person is designated a terrorist.
“However, this legislation provides recourse for someone like that, once they can prove they were not involved in any act, to redeem themselves.”
He commended the Government for making the amendments to the existing laws, in keeping with the United Nations Convention on the Prevention of Terrorist Financing, the UN Security Council’s Resolution on the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, as well as the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force.
“We must be more resilient and proactive on these matters, and I want to applaud the Government in being forward looking in terms of having the legislative framework in place to ensure we are compliant with our financial partners, and do whatever we can to ensure these weapons or money to finance them do not pass through this country,” he said.