Territorial disputes, Arrest Warrant Treaty and Security on CARICOM’s agenda today

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The border controversies between Guyana and Venezuela and Guatemala and Belize, the Arrest Warrant Treaty and crime and security are among the issues, which will be discussed by the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) today, the final day of the 28th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government of CARICOM. 

The first day of the Conference concluded last evening, with President David Granger, who is the Chairman of the regional body, describing that the day’s proceedings and discussions were “successful.”

 The Guyanese Head of State, speaking to journalists after the conclusion of the Caucus last evening, said that Guyana is expected to present the draft CARICOM Arrest Warrant Treaty for ratification today when the Meeting reconvenes. The Treaty is one of the regional security instruments that was formulated to enhance cooperation between member states in the fight against crime and to reduce the complexity, cost and delays in the existing extradition arrangements inherent in the Region. The Treaty is aimed at simplifying the procedures in which fugitives are returned to any of the participating member states of the region to face prosecution.

Further, the Heads will look at addressing the issues of crime and security. “Crime and security have also been concerns of the Caribbean. [CARICOM States are] in a sea [space], which is over two and a half million square kilometres, and it is difficult for us with limited transportation, limited population and limited resources to control that vast area without collaboration with other countries in the hemisphere,” President Granger said.

Caricom Heads and members of various delegations gathered at the 28th Inter-sessional Meeting

The issue of correspondent banking will also occupy the agenda. Expressing concern about the limited movement toward a resolution, President Granger said CARICOM must continue its robust and unrelenting advocacy on the issue. The President said that that some of the sanctions are quite unfair to affected CARICOM countries and this must be addressed.

Caricom Chairman, President David Granger, delivering his address at the opening of the 28th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government

“This has been a matter of concern for several years and the Caribbean will be taking a joint collective approach to it. The whole question of de-risking has hurt some of the Caribbean economies, some more than others. It is quite unfair because there has not been a single case in which any jurisdiction or any bank or any banking institution has been shown to have been involved in money laundering or any form of financial impropriety. So the entire approach has been very baffling… We feel that by taking collective action we will be able to engage some of the banks from the developed countries to take a more favourable approach toward the plight of the Small Island States,” the President was quoted as saying in a statement from his office.

The Chairman of CARICOM said that yesterday’s discussions focused heavily on the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), to which there was renewed commitment on the part of Heads of Government. The CSME, the President said, is critical to the region’s economic growth and development.

“We feel that we have to move further much faster because we are living in an environment of economic turmoil. Many of our commodities and services have seen depressed prices in the international market over the last two years or so and we would like to ensure that the CSME is put on a firmer footing so we could ensure that the people of the region have a better life. Our main concern right now is the economy. We pointed out that the three mainland countries; Belize Guyana and Suriname have a huge land area- bigger than Germany and we feel that food security is not a dream. We could achieve food security by producing all of the commodities that are needed on a day-to-day basis by the countries, which don’t have so much land space. We are one community and we feel that the quicker we move toward that single market and economy the better for all of us,” he said.

Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carl Greenidge, in an invited comment, agreed that the first day of the meeting was successful and noted that the President received strong support from the other Heads of Government. “They are all, I think very constructive in their approach to the topics- some of which were difficult, but they were able to arrive at where they want to,” he said.

At the conclusion of last year’s 37th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government, former Chair of the regional body, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica announced that with regard to the CSME, a decision was taken for the implementation of a comprehensive review of the integration tool. These findings from that review were to be examined during the current Inter-sessional Meeting. However, Minister Greenidge explained that given the size of the Report, it will now be discussed at the Regular Meeting to be held in July.

“It looked at a number of issues ranging from free movement of people free movement of goods and the institutional framework within which the integration movement is built and where improvements need to be effected. CARICOM skills certificates are some of the details too they looked at and again that ended on a reasonably amicable note. But of course it’s far from having arrived at a position where they are able to say to themselves we have done all that we should have done and the exercise is finished. It is a continuous process,” Minister Greenidge said.

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