Jamaica, T&T to set up joint commission to improve bilateral relations
JAMAICA and Trinidad and Tobago have agreed to the urgent formation of a joint commission "or a similar entity" to advance the issue of enhanced functional cooperation between them.
A joint communiqué following the second round of bilateral talks between the two Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries also re-affirmed "the importance of the consultations as a mechanism for strengthening political dialogue, reviewing bilateral cooperation and exchanging views on a range of pertinent issues".
The first round of bilateral consultations on free movement in the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) was held in Kingston last December following the controversy that erupted when Port of Spain deported a number of Jamaican nationals. The move resulted in calls for a boycott of Trinidad and Tobago products in Jamaica.
Foreign Minister A.J Nicholson and his Trinidad and Tobago counterpart, Winston Dookeran met in Port of Spain last week and according to the communiqué released Monday, both ministers said they were cognisant of the fact that the Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica's bilateral relationship is based on a history of shared values, respect, friendship and a tradition of cooperation at all levels of government, business and civil society.
The communiqué noted that the meeting had assessed the progress made since the initial round of consultations "and agreed on the need to maintain and intensify efforts with a view to implementing initiatives on the bilateral agenda.
"In this regard, both sides agreed to explore urgently the formation of a Joint Commission or a similar entity to advance the issue of enhanced functional cooperation between the two countries."
The communiqué said that both countries "have a vital stake in and share a common commitment" to Caricom and in the spirit of regional cooperation, "will work together closely, seeking to advance common approaches to regional and international issues".
On the issue of hassle-free travel, the ministers called for further discussions among their immigration and other relevant officials on the implications of the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the case involving the Jamaican national Shanique Myrie and Barbados.
The CCJ had in October last year ruled that Myrie be awarded BDS$75,000 (US$37,500) in non-pecuniary damage and BDS$2, 240 in pecuniary damages after she had alleged that when she travelled to Barbados on March 14, 2011 she was discriminated against because of her nationality, subjected to a body cavity search, detained overnight in a cell and deported to Jamaica the following day.
Myrie also claimed that she was subjected to derogatory remarks by a Barbadian Immigration officer and asked the CCJ to determine the minimum standard of treatment applicable to Caricom citizens moving around the region.
The communiqué said that Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica had expressed a desire for the discussions on the implications of the CCJ ruling to be held region-wide as well.
"Trinidad and Tobago provided details of its existing procedures whereby those Caricom nationals denied entry have access to an administrative review of the decision of the immigration officer. Jamaica noted that its law makes provision in certain cases for a referral to a resident magistrate and that this could be used as a transitional measure to provide for judicial oversight pending formal amendment of its law consistent with Community law," said the communiqué.
The communiqué noted, too, that both countries provided details of their on-going efforts to train immigration officers and that immigration officers from Trinidad and Tobago participated in sensitisation sessions facilitated by the Caricom Secretariat late last month.
"The two sides assessed the progress made with respect to the implementation of the Complaints Mechanism approved by the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in November 2013. It said that Trinidad and Tobago asserted that approvals from the respective line ministries and Cabinet were required before implementing the Complaints Mechanism and undertook to keep Jamaica abreast of developments in this regard. Jamaica noted that the Complaints Mechanism approved by the COTED has already been made available at its ports of entry.
"Both sides recommitted to the sharing of data regarding the travel of nationals between the two countries, and exchanged ideas on mechanisms to facilitate the enhanced exchange of information, on a regular basis, through mutually agreed channels. They also agreed to enhance the process for collecting and sharing more specific data in respect of travel between their respective countries," according to the communiqué.
Discussions were also held on the issue of airport detentions and it was noted that Jamaica had dedicated accommodation facilities at their main airports for persons denied entry. In this regard, Trinidad and Tobago informed that options will be explored for providing facilities at the airports for persons denied entry.
"On the subject of the harmonising of practices and procedures with regard to the free movement of skilled nationals, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica welcomed the work being undertaken in the context of the administrative component of the Caricom Trade and Competitiveness Project, with particular reference to the acceptance of a standardised Certificate of Recognition of CARICOM Skills Qualification (Skills Certificate)."
Both countries said that they had "reaffirmed their commitment to hassle-free travel and committed to work towards developing public education programmes to highlight the rights and responsibilities of those who exercise their right to travel or move freely in the Single Market".