NEW PROCESSES: Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran, left, speaks to Caricom Ambassador Edwin
Carrington following yesterday’s media conference at Tower C, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
—Photo: ANISTO ALVES
Dookeran ‘cools the waters’ with Jamaica
Portia: It was a matter of dignity
Ria Taitt Political Editor
It was a matter of dignity, Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller told Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran during his two-day visit to Jamaica on Monday and Tuesday.
Dookeran had been mandated by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to go to Jamaica in the wake of the turning away of 13 Jamaican nationals at Piarco International Airport on November 19.
As a result of the visit, a new administrative regime which would, among other things, “treat our nationals with a level of dignity” has been worked out. And Dookeran was optimistic yesterday that the diplomatic intervention had “cooled the waters” and prevented the “stresses and strains” between Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica from spilling over into other areas of their economic relationship, especially in trade.
Dookeran held consultations with Jamaican officials there, led by Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Arnold J Nicholson, on the free movement of Jamaicans into Trinidad and Tobago within the context of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), in the wake of the incident.
Speaking at a news conference at the Foreign Affairs Ministry yesterday, CEO of Government Information Services Andy Johnson who accompanied Dookeran, said the Trinidad and Tobago High Commissioner to Jamaica pointed out that the point of the denial of entry was not a one-way issue. “She said her office gets reports about Trinidad and Tobago nationals arriving in Jamaica and having difficulty with entry as well, but it may be that the differences in the character and nature of nationals of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago may be that we don’t make as much noise as they do and therefore the issue does not rise to the fore as it did last week (when 13 Jamaicans were denied entry at Piarco from a single flight). He said the figures pointed by the Trinidad and Tobago Immigration showed that 96 per cent of Jamaicans arriving in Trinidad and Tobago get entry. So we are talking about an issue arising out of the denial of four per cent,” he said. The Jamaican side took this on board during the discussions, he said.
Johnson, also pointed to the fact the two sides agreed that the “heads of Immigration authorities of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago should meet with their respective staff to tackle issues related to allegations of profiling. It was agreed that there is a need for further training of immigration officers to effectively facilitate the hassle-free travel of Community nationals”.
Dookeran said at the meeting in Jamaica both countries examined the recent ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and what changes were required in the immigration authorities here and in the rest of the Caribbean to ensure that the country met the requirements of the Caricom ruling on the Shanique Myrie case.
“This had to be translated into new (immigration) processes....We indicated that we were very much keen on implementing the new processes,” he said. He said to this end a meeting will take place in Guyana from December 11 to 12 to define the new processes in situations of entry. Among the things agreed to, Dookeran said were:
(1) There must be a clear definition of how decisions, if they are unfavourable to our nationals can be appealed, how complaints can be lodged and treated and how there would be a new accountability on the issue of immigration;
(2) Immigration officials must have the right to exercise their judgement and the decision on entry or refusal rests with the immigration officials at the point of entry in the first instance. However, in exercising their discretion, immigration officials would have to operate within the context of the CCJ ruling and the new limits imposed by Community law.
“This in no way was an admission that what had taken place (on November 19), was done outside of the legal framework, but indeed there is need for transition to incorporate the new legal processes that are required,” Dookeran stressed.
“There was a large degree of anxiety and discontent in the Jamaican community relating to issues of trade and therefore it was important to ensure that this matter did not spill over into an emotive response that would affect our commercial relationship,” Dookeran said.
Any acceleration of the commercial tensions would not be in the interest of any country, he added. Trinidad and Tobago sells in excess of US $1 billion of products and has an trade imbalance in its favour in excess of US$700 million with Jamaica, Ambassador Mervyn Assam stated.