A senior Caribbean Community (Caricom) official has warned that a boycott of goods from either T&T or Jamaica would not help the development of the region. In a newspaper interview, Caricom assistant secretary general in charge of human and social development Dr Douglas Slater, said it was time to "put a brake on boycotts".
Commenting on the recent denial of entry of 13 Jamaicans into T&T, which he said was "unfortunate and should not be repeated", Dr Slater said: "Let us slow down, let us take this thing a little bit more seriously and understand the implications. And let us solve the problems because they are not insurmountable – we have the ability to. We have worked on problems much bigger than that and we have succeeded, and we can and must solve these problems.
"A boycott of Trinidad goods by Jamaicans, or vice versa, is not going to help either of the countries nor the Caricom region, because one of the routes to development of the region is through increased trade."Dr Slater, a former minister of foreign affairs, foreign trade and consumer affairs for St Vincent and the Grenadines, said he was happy about the decision by Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran and Jamaica's Foreign Affairs Minister A J Nicholson to discuss the issue in Kingston following public outcry.
"I believe that, as a Caribbean people, we are going to have these challenges from time to time, but we must look at the bigger picture [and] work towards resolving our problem more amicably," he said.
"I'm not too worried about it, quite frankly, I am optimistic. There will always be little hurdles in the way of development. The European Union, who have been many years ahead of us, they still have challenges. It's just, I think, for us to be very aware of these challenges, to be sensitive to what our citizens may see, to inform them [and] educate them more."
Dr Slater said the work of the Caricom Secretariat had often been misunderstood because of the misperception that it could implement policies. He said while the Secretariat can assist with putting together policies, it was the member states, which formed the executive arm of Caricom, that had the ability to implement them.
"...It is the member states, but sometimes that is missed. Take for example, the question of the Dominica Republic and Haiti, several heads of government, including and especially Prime Minister Gonsalves of the St Vincent and the Grenadines, made very strong statements on behalf of his country and Caricom," he said.
"The Secretariat is willing to be supportive of policies that will enhance the livelihood and the human development of our citizens; that's what we are there for. But we work in partnership and there are many bodies of the Secretariat that have worked together and we have had a lot of success stories in Caricom."
Among the success stories Dr Slater pointed to are the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC); the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP) and the Caribbean Court of Justice which just recently delivered a landmark ruling in the case of Jamaican Shanique Myrie who is to be awarded BDS$77,240 following a humiliating body-cavity search at the Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados two years ago.
Dr Slater said Caricom member states should be very careful when making decisions at any level, especially in terms of immigration, "in light of the issues and the reaction that it can create and has created"."I think that there might be some misunderstanding regarding the whole question of the free movement of people. The movement of people is the goal of the Caricom region, [but] I think free comes with some inverted commas [because] there is no total freedom," he said.
"I think all member states would like to have a situation where we can move around our countries much more hassle-free, but at the same time, we must recognise that there are certain security issues that if the member states feel are being infringed, they must maintain the right to act accordingly."