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Sunday, July 02, 2006 



Priorities for the St Kitts summit
Analysis
Rickey Singh

Sunday, July 02, 2006

LOOK out for a new format in the structure of meetings and shaping of agendas for heads of government of the Caribbean Community, both at their Inter-Sessionals and Summits, after this week's 27th regular conference in Basseterre, St Kitts.

Rickey Singh

It has to do, in part, with varying "consultation" meetings with civil society and other representatives in mind, as well as striving for more effective functioning of the Community Secretariat that could well highlight the necessity also for an empowered mechanism for better governance, such as a widely recommended Caricom Commission.

However, reorganisation of the twice-yearly Intersessional and Summit meetings of the Community leaders would certainly not be pressing an agenda item in comparison to weighty, priority economic, political and social issues scheduled to be addressed during the four-day summit that begins with a ceremonial opening tomorrow afternoon at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank complex.

CSM: Count priority issues to include, for instance, resolving differences for the much-awaited official announcement of a full slate of 12 participating member countries being on board for the Caricom Single Market (CSM) with hopes of proceeding to a seamless regional economy in 2008 when the vital "E" makes the CSME operational.

Optimism among most OECS leaders to be on board the CSM was, however, still contending last weekend on application of alien land-holding legislation in approval of licences for non-nationals to establish business enterprises under the revised Caricom treaty, with Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in particular stressing the need for realistic "concessions" that others feel should not be used as hurdles at this stage.

DEVELOPMENT FUND: Secondly, there remains the issue of finalising arrangements, including the contribution formula for capital endowment of the proposed Caricom Development Fund (CDF) which is to be initially established with US$120 million and later expanded, with envisaged external resources, to US$250 million.

CRIME AND SECURITY: A third priority issue would be coming to grips with very challenging social problems of serious crimes that threaten to undermine national security in many of Caricom's 15 member countries.

These include, ironically, Trinidad and Tobago, whose prime minister, Patrick Manning, has lead responsibility among Community leaders for regional arrangements on crime and security.

The difference for this week's summit in relation to the "crime and security" agenda is that the Caricom leaders would find it difficult to simply make bland statements about "progress" having been made in arrangements by the layers of structures and mechanisms created. Some specific details would be required in support of assurances in the face of societies traumatised by killings, kidnappings, rape, armed robberies by the criminals armed with sophisticated weapons and inteligence-gathering equipment.

The crime and security agenda, normally addressed in closed-door caucus sessions, will take place at a time of increasing and controversial reports of stolen arms, ammunition and equipment from within some army and police services and ongoing public concerns about the independence and integrity of their respective high command.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: This horrible global phenomenon in the exploitation of men, women and children for the bourgeoning sex trade, as well as a source of cheap labour, is to be discussed for the first time as an agenda issue at a Caricom summit.

This would be at the specific request of Belize, which has complained of having come under inordinate pressure from United States authorities and unfairly given a punitive Tier-3 category rating that has identified it as "a source, transit and destination country" for the purpose of cheap labour and sexual exploitation.
A shared concern among some Caricom states that have been previously identified by the USA as having a human trafficking problem, in varying degrees (including Guyana and Jamaica), is the arbitrary rating system employed by American authorities.

'The policy, some contend, smacks of an earlier heavy-handed approach by other administrations in Washington in the unilateral deportation of Caribbean nationals deemed as criminals, among them people who grew up in America and often with no family member or close relative back in the land of their birth. This problem remains under review for amicable resolution.

SECURITY COUNCIL SEAT: Discussion by the leaders on hemispheric and international developments of importance to the Community would certainly include the current bitter clash between the USA and Venezuela in the filling of the two-year non-permanent UN Security Council seat which is being vacated in October by Argentina.

The George Bush administration, which is openly campaigning for Guatemala, has made clear its firm opposition to Venezuela, under President Hugo Chavez, being chosen for the seat. Currently, however, the majority votes among Caricom and Latin American nations favour Venezuela.

Critical to a majority, if not a consensus vote in Caricomfor Venezuela, would be support from Guyana, which has a colonial-inherited border dispute with the Venezuelans, and Belize's backing also in preference to a representative of Guatemala with which the Belizeans have a historical territorial row.

HEALTH AND FREE MOVEMENT: Review of actions being taken to advance recommendations from the Sir George Alleyne-headed Caribbean Commission on Health and Development will be led by host Prime Minister Denzil Douglas of St Kitts and Nevis, who has lead responsibility for health and human resources issues among heads of government.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica is to report on progress in the area of free movement of an expanded category of skilled Caricom nationals, while Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo will report on matters pertaining to regional agricultural development and food security.

There are to be updates on arrangements for the establishment of a Caribbean Business Council by Barbados' Prime Minister Owen Arthur, who has overall lead responsibility for CSME arrangements, and from Grenada's Prime Minister Keith Mitchell on the latest status quo on readiness arrangements for Cricket World Cup 2007.
HAITI: There is to be a special working session with President Rene Preval on the current situation in Haiti and his government's future working relations with the rest of the Community.
Preval is among five speakers listed for tomorrow's opening ceremony.
The others are: Community Secretary-General Edwin Carrington; outgoing Caricom chairman, Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago; Jamaica's Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller; Vincentian Prime Minister Gonsalves; and Prime Minister and incoming Community chairman for the next six months, Denzil Douglas.


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