The calming of the waters between Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, which Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran’s two-day visit to that island had produced earlier this week, seemed to have been undone by statements attributed to National Security Minister Gary Griffith.
The Jamaica Gleaner yesterday reported there was “fury” in the country over statements made by Griffith in a newspaper interview published on Thursday.
The matter yesterday attracted the attention of Chaguanas West MP, Jack Warner, who sought leave to raise it as an urgent matter of public importance.
Responding to Griffith’s “biting remarks” that Trinidad and Tobago was “not a mall where anyone will be allowed entry”, Jamaica’s Opposition spokesman on industry and commerce, Karl Samuda, stated: “Only when we take the action that hits them where it hurts the most, will they (Trinidad and Tobago) begin to realise that gone are the days when they can treat our nationals with scant regard and get away with it.
“We agree with him (Griffith) that Trinidad and Tobago is not a mall and the Jamaican private sector would like to reiterate that Jamaica is not a mall for Trinidadian garbage,” the Gleaner reported.
Samuda called on the Jamaican government to “stop pussyfooting around and hit them where it hurts the most”.
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran declined to comment on the matter yesterday.
However, Warner said the two statements by Ministers Griffith and Dookeran were conflicting.
Warner noted that Dookeran stated on Wednesday he and the Foreign Minister of Jamaica had agreed on new immigration processes with respect to Jamaican nationals arriving in Trinidad and Tobago.
But, Warner noted, Griffith subsequently was reported to have stated the position with regards to the permission of entry of such visitors has not changed.
“The conflicting positions of the two ministers can lead to confusion for: a) Jamaican nationals seeing to enter Trinidad and Tobago and are now uncertain as to whether there has in fact been any change in this country’s immigration policy and procedures; b) Immigration officers who would face uncertainty in how to treat with arriving Jamaican nationals out of fear that the wrong decision on their part could either jeopardise their jobs or embroil them in any new tension between this country and Jamaica, should they have to turn back any visiting Jamaican nationals,” Warner said.
Warner said the matter was of public importance because for as long as this matter is unclear it can lead to the recurrence of the diplomatic tensions that occurred between this country and Jamaica recently when 13 Jamaican nationals were turned back at the Piarco International Airport.
These tensions resulted in a threat to the trade relations between the two countries where investments by both Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica citizens were placed in jeopardy, he said.
He said the issue could also cause international and regional embarrassment of this country if any immigration officer is forced to act in any way that is contrary to the agreement signed between the Foreign Ministers; or to the conclusion that Trinidad and Tobago is not living up to its commitments.
Sources said Dookeran gave a report to the Cabinet on Thursday of his two-day meeting in Jamaica, indicating the tensions had been soothed between the two countries and that the nerves of the Jamaican population had been calmed.
However, sources said Griffith said at that meeting that he was not prepared to compromise the country’s national security for anything.
Jamaica is T&T’s second-largest export market after the United States.