The Prime Minsters of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica will today engage in bilateral talks to iron out issues affecting the movement of goods and people across the countries.T&T Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley arrived in Kingston yesterday at the request of Jamaica PM Andrew Holness for the critical session.
Among the issues carded to be discussed are immigration and trade. Both PMs met at the Caricom Heads of Government meeting last month when the invitation was extended.
Upon arrival just before 11 local time here yesterday, Rowley was taken to the tarmac at the Norman Manley International Airport where a half guard gathered, gave him the customary salute and he was invited to inspect them. The T&T national anthem was also strummed by the live band.
This week's visit was sparked by an apparent fallout in the wake of complaints from Jamaican nationals of ill treatment by immigration officials on arrival in T&T, leading to their deportation.
In early 2016, Jamaican nationals were turned away by immigration officers at the Piarco International Airport who contended the travellers had failed to meet entry requirements to T&T.
However, the Jamaican cried discrimination and their cause was taken up by president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, William Mahfood, also director of one of the island's largest manufacturing and distribution companies Wisynco Group Limited.
Mahfood is reported by Jamaican media to have called for the boycott of T&T goods. Subsequently, some T&T manufacturers complained to Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon that the trade of millions of dollars of their goods was being discontinued. Mahfood will host Rowley and his contingent at a luncheon tomorrow.
But the visit may not be all work and no play for the T&T delegation, as the schedule of events includes a visit to the Bob Marley Museum. And if the tiff is not settled beyond the conference doors, it may just be on the field of play as the two heads of government will also attend the Caribbean Premier League match between the Jamaican Tallawahs and the Trinbago Knight Riders tonight.
The five-day Visit will end with a media conference just before the T&T delegation leaves on Thursday.
Also part of the T&T delegation is St Augustine MP and former Congress of the People (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar, who said yesterday he did not need the permission of Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to accept the invitation to join travel with Rowley's team to Jamaica.
In a telephone interview shortly after arriving in the Kingston, Ramadhar sought to diffuse criticism from Persad-Bissessar, who questioned why he accepted an invitations without first consulting her, while Couva North MP Ramona Ramdial declined after consulting her,
Ramadhar said: "I know Mrs Persad-Bissessar will have her view on what may have happened, but I was invited and I took it to my party and they were quite happy to participate in anything that will help the country. So I have no difficulties."
Ramadhar, who was part of Persad-Bissessar's People's Partnership coalition government between 2010 and September last year, also noted that the COP is an independent political party. "The COP has always been an independent party that worked in partnership and we look forward to doing anything we can do to help improve the quality of life of all citizens," he said.
Asked if he felt that the issue would cause a rift in the Opposition, Ramadhar said no.
"Not at all. Not from my point of view because, I am doing nothing wrong and have never done anything to harm anyone. So it is a matter for a perspective to be settled," Ramadhar said.