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Some Jamaicans still want T&T boycott

Rocky road to free trade and free movement
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Arnold J Nicholson

Barely a month after talks between Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran and his Jamaican counterpart, Arnold J Nicholson, to resolve trade and immigration issues between the two countries, a new survey shows that some Jamaicans are still in favour of a boycott of goods fromT&T and an overwhelming majority are still up in arms over the decision to refuse entry to 13 Jamaicans, including a child, late last year.


The calls for boycott came after the Jamaicans were turned back at Piarco International Airport on November 20. The Jamaicans claimed T&T immigration officers told them they were being turned back due to the recent murder of a Trinidadian whose body was discovered in St Catherine. They also claimed that the rejection of entry was unjust because both countries are signatories to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which grants freedom of movement to Caribbean Community citizens.


According to a report in Jamaica’s Gleaner newspaper, a survey commissioned by the Jamaica National Building Society and done by Johnson Survey Research showed less than four in every 10 Jamaicans (38 per cent) support the boycott call, while 46 per cent said no to the boycott while 16 per cent were unmoved either way. Jamaican school teacher Kesreen Green Dillon, who initiated the boycott using the social media, said she was disappointed at the findings of the survey.


“So many things have been going on and so many Jamaicans targeted and I think a boycott would give us a chance to buy Jamaican, which would help us grow,” she said. Green Dillon said while she accepted that people formed their opinions based on their socialisation, she questioned how Jamaicans culd not support a boycott in light of the many reports of unfair treatment by immigration officers in T&T.


The survey showed that the vast majority of Jamaicans—75 per cent—said they were aware of the incident when 13 people were turned back at Piarco International Airport, and 61 per cent felt the action was wrong, even though T&T officials repeatedly denied they were refused entry because they were from Jamaica. Only 15 per cent of the respondents agreed with the decision to refuse the Jamaicans entry. 



A total of 1,008 residents of Jamaica aged 18 and older were interviewed for the survey which was conducted between December 7 and 15. It was done just days after talks in Kingston between Dookeran and Nicholson which culminated with an agreement on a path to improve free trade and free movement between the two countries.


At that time Dookeran said: “I think we have...created a platform for addressing not only the issues which brought this meeting together, but for a wider set of considerations, both in our bilateral relations, and in the relations within the wider Caricom.” Nicholson has been invited to visit Port-of-Spain by the end of the first quarter of this year for further consultations to follow up on agreements coming out of the Kingston talks.


Meanwhile, a recent incident involving T&T immigration and Jamaican radio personality and comedian Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley is threatening to revive the dispute. Daley said he was mistreated by airport officials and vented his anger at the shabby treatment on the social network website Facebook last week.



He said he felt like a criminal even though he broke no immigration law and was not in possession of any contraband or banned items. Daley, in his Facebook post, said: “I had my worst travel experience entering the twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago last night and I’m sorry to say it but Jamaicans are targeted and profiled because it happened to me and my wife.


“A J Nicholson, Mr Minister of Foreign Affairs, there is much work to be done. We were suspects the minute we walked up to immigration. Without scanning our passports the Indian-looking officer took up a phone and called someone to indicate that she felt suspicious.



Whilst on the phone, with the receiver by her ears, she then asked a few questions as to the purpose of our trip. She was told. She then asked if we were actually married and was responded to. The officer then pointed out that I had several work permits (for other countries in my passport) to the person on the phone, as if that was her reason for being suspicious. She then scanned our books and asked us to sit across the way and wait.


“After fifteen minuets or so she called us over and handed our passports and sent us through. If the checks had ended there this note would not be written but as soon as we got to our bags and entered the customs line it was clear that the customs enforcement team that was waiting was prepped to look out for the suspects, ‘aka Jamaican criminals’.”



Daley said that he and his wife were the only ones searched by hand, and were asked to break open one of the beef patties they were taking for their hosts, after which the officer broke several pieces of the ginger they were asked to take by their hosts, and squeezed the harddough bread so hard that “it lost its shape.”


He  said interrogation was continued by the customs officer, while two policemen in plain clothes stood by. He was, among other things, asked how long he had been in Jamaica, if he had a criminal record and his travel history. 


Daley wrote: “She seemed quite disappointed and annoyed that she found nothing alarming in our luggage and then she did the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever experienced. She asked if I was wearing two trousers (remember I live in the tropics ) to which my response was an obvious no. 


Without hesitation she instructed me to go to a room with the two thug-looking men (police). I shook my head and reluctantly entered the tiny room. One thug stood at the door the other asked me to lift my shirt up. I did since I had my undershirt on. He gave me a pat down, searched the seam of my pants and then told me to step out. “This has never happened before in all my years of travelling, not even in the United States, a country that is constantly having to protect its borders from terrorists. It was humiliating.


“(Minister) Nicholson, there was no respect shown to me and my wife. The Trinidad airport personnel seem to personally enjoy dragging us through the mud of their system. Suffice to say we barely made the connecting flight to Tobago and got attitude from the Caribbean airline staff on the ground for being late for boarding. Oh, and they left our luggage, by the way. Fortunately our hosts in Tobago could drop a few names and it was later delivered.


“My fellow Jamaicans, please have all your ducks in a row and your T’s crossed if you need to travel to Trinidad and Tobago because we are being targeted. They had no good reason to treat my wife and I the way they did so I can only assume it’s our nationality that was the issue. It’s as if the immigration and Customs personnel have replaced The word Jamaican with criminal, so please be careful.”


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