The row between T&T and Jamaica has heightened as Jamaicans have launched a Facebook campaign calling for citizens to boycott goods from T&T. The campaign is also urging Jamaicans to stay away from T&T's Carnival celebrations next year.The issue has sparked international concern as it was the major topic of discussion yesterday on a New York radio programme, Caribbean Corner, hosted by former T&T radio personality Rennie Bishop.
So worrying has the situation become that former foreign affairs minister and current Point Fortin MP, Paula Gopee-Scoon, yesterday called on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to "immediately take charge."The situation developed last Tuesday after 13 Jamaicans claimed they were unjustly deported from T&T.
The group charged it was a breach of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and a mark of disrespect to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which, in a landmark case involving Shanique Myrie against the Barbadian Government, ruled that where a Caricom national was refused entry into a member state that national should be allowed to consult an attorney or consular official or to contact a family member.
The issue sparked widespread debate in Jamaica last week. It continued yesterday in the Jamaica Gleaner, where an article highlighted the campaign, titled "Boycott all products made in T&T. Jamaicans let us unite for a cause", initiated by rural primary schoolteacher Kesreen Green Dillon.The campaign was launched last week amid mounting allegations that Caricom neighbours have been flouting the free-movement provisions of the Treaty of Chaguaramas by blocking Jamaicans from entering their country.
"With support growing, there are suggestions that Jamaicans should also boycott the famed Carnival in Trinidad, even as a list is being compiled of all Trinidadian products sold in Jamaica," the Gleaner said.Green Dillon told the Gleaner: "I am tired of seeing Trinidad and Barbados treat other member states, especially Jamaica, like second-rate citizens."The patty war is fresh in my mind and the number of Jamaicans turned back from their shores annually."
She also accused T&T of being "anything but neighbourly," adding it was time Jamaicans sent a strong message that "enough is enough."The Gleaner said her sentiments were supported by Karl Samuda, opposition spokesman on industry and commerce, who was quoted as saying:"This action makes a mockery of the spirit of the Treaty of Chaguaramas and the Trinidadians must be roundly chastised for the attitude that they have adopted with respect to Jamaica and Jamaicans in particular."
The T&T Guardian tried several times yesterday to reach Sharon Saunders, Jamaica' s High Commissioner to T&T, but on each occasion was told she was in a meeting. Saunders did not return the calls.
Saying the latest twist has created a strained relationship between T&T and Jamaica "for the time being," Gopee-Scoon said it seemed the major problem was communication and the lack of information on the guidelines for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME)."I am quite certain that, generally, guidelines regarding the CSME have been lacking for some time because people are not familiar with the travel arrangements and that need to be clarified," Gopee-Scoon said.
Saying the situation could have significant potential to do great damage, Gopee-Scoon said it could also result in negative implications for jobs, as Jamaica was the largest market in the region.She believed the wrongdoing was on T&T's part and it was therefore up to it to make amends.Bishop, who also expressed concern, said he wrote to T&T's Foreign Affairs Ministry last Friday for clarification of the deportation.
A copy of the letter, which was sent to the T&T Guardian, said: "As you will appreciate this issue is causing great consternation in the NY West Indian community."There is, I believe, a great deal of misinformation that begs immediate redress and clarity. I am optimistic that you can join us, via telephone, and inform our listeners as this vital issue begs urgent elucidation."Up to late yesterday, Bishop said he was yet to receive a response from the ministry.
On the radio programme, Bishop also interviewed Dr Una Clarke, the first Caribbean-born woman elected to the New York City's legislature, who also spoke about her concerns.In a clip of the interview, which was also obtained by the T&T Guardian, Clarke said she was angry about the situation.
"If you are a part of the region... Caricom... all of the agreements we have made for free movement for nationals from nation to nation, I think that anybody who comes with appropriate documents should be allowed to land, Clarke said.