To Port of Spain with love, not hate
THE page three picture of the foreign ministers of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica smiling at each other in yesterday's edition of this newspaper is worth much more than the proverbial thousand words.
Last week, we had fretted somewhat in this space that our own Mr A J Nicholson could not, indeed, must not fail in his talks with Mr Winston Dookeran, in the search for a long-term solution to the sporadic falling out between Kingston and Port of Spain. The meetings here this week have rekindled the hope in us that the solution can and will come.
For our part, we have remained steadfast in our belief that we are better as a Caribbean Community (Caricom) unit than as a disparate collection of tiny islands, highly dependent on external resources to ensure our survival. We continue to cherish the dream of regional integration, that one day the peoples of the Caribbean will freely cross each other's borders, without let or hindrance, and that we'll walk hand-in-hand to the mountaintop.
Yet, our faith has, at times, been shaken by the actions of Trinidad in how exports from Jamaica have been received and treated, and the coldness of the reception of our citizens at Piarco International Airport. The recent deportation of 13 Jamaicans might just have proven to be the tipping point in relations between the two Caribbean neighbours and sister nations.
We strongly believe that the notion of regional integration will not be realised by politicians meeting at annual summits that are too often merely talk shops, but by the peoples of all our regional countries integrating: studying together; working together; playing together; quarrelling even, but resolving differences as families do, and always talking. The key to that achievement is freedom of movement.
One cannot ignore the concerns in some islands that Jamaica's economic struggles could result in a flood of unemployed and unemployable Jamaicans entering their shores, some of whom could become a charge on their already burdened State. But we would like to humbly suggest that, despite our economic woes, Jamaica has provided a model of how to welcome our Caribbean neighbours.
If there is any country in Caricom that should be anxious about accepting others who come here seeking jobs, it should, again we say so respectfully, be Jamaica. We have one of the highest jobless rates; lowest economic growth rates; severest energy costs; most populous territory, and all the things that breed resentment for foreigners. But it is distinctly un-Jamaican to be inhospitable to our visitors.
From the utterances of Mr Dookeran, we quite understand why Trinidad has sent him to Jamaica. He is an astute and highly intelligent human being who demonstrates an understanding of the problems our two countries face. His simple but profound statement that neither of us can afford a trade war goes straight to the real point: We need each other.