Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley will visit Jamaica soon presumably to mend fences with Jamaicans, uninformed either by a well thought out and properly ventilated CARICOM action plan; or even a foreign policy which articulates clear positions on global issues like regional trade, climate change or global terror.
While Dr Rowley is set to make this ill-conceived and ill-timed visit to “speak directly to the people of Jamaica,” a Jamaica Observer Editorial on June 13 called on him to delay his visit. Perhaps it might be better, given the plethora of unaddressed national challenges, for the Prime Minister to let Foreign Affairs Minister David Moses do the job for which he is being paid while he concentrates on the many challenges we face.
Our foreign policy is essentially reactive, in shambles and seemingly developed on the fly. The PNM manifesto, now government policy, says precious little on CARICOM. The name change of our foreign ministry to include CARICOM Affairs is merely window dressing.
Venezuelan President Maduro visited our country and, on the fly, we offered a US$50 million revolving fund without thinking through its operational details. We are yet to develop immigration or refugee policies to match the largely unregulated influx of Venezuelan, Columbian or Dominican Republic citizens into our country with serious implications for human trafficking, diminution of our FX situation (visit any Moneygram to find out) and increases in drugs, guns and crime.
Dr. Rowley pointedly opposed TT’s co-sponsorship of the Security Council Resolution on counter-terrorism.
Our country used to be in the forefront of climate change negotiations with one of our own Kishan Kumarsingh co-chairing “lead up” meetings on behalf of all developing countries. Dr Rowley, however, was a no-show at last year’s General Assembly in New York and at this year’s climate change signing ceremonies in that city and also at the major climate change meeting in Paris.
TT recently signed the climate change meeting but our CARICOM neighbors like Grenada, Barbados, Belize, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia have not only signed but simultaneously ratified in their respective parliaments the Paris climate change agreement. The climate change agreement is not even listed in our AG’s short and medium term legislative agenda.
Without an informed brief, Dr. Rowley will, as is becoming the norm, articulate positions developed either on the fly or in reaction to what he will hear in Jamaica.
Have we for example, retrained our immigration officers to treat with CARICOM visitors in the light of the CCJ’s 2013 ruling on the Shanique Myrie case?
Is there a standardized approach to dealing with CARICOM citizens (especially Jamaicans) on arrival at our ports of entry?
Do we have a clear, consistently applied, policy on the implementation of CARICOM work permits?
Do we have trade policies that advance our interests as well as our CARICOM neighbors’?
Are our immigration detention facilities, especially for CARICOM detainees, up to the required standards?
Do we have back door communication channels with CARICOM leaders to head off future crises?
Dr Rowley will do well spend quality time in our country thinking through these issues so his trip to Jamaica, if it indeed occurs, will not be wasted and our relations with our CARICOM neighbors will not be subject to ad-hocism, subjectivity, condescension and even perceived hostility.