PORT OF SPAIN –– Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has intervened in the ongoing immigration and manufacturing dispute between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and plans to pay an official visit there “in the not-too-distant future” to address the issue.
The issue stemmed from an immigration matter in March, where Trinidad and Tobago immigration authorities debarred several Jamaicans from entering this country because they couldn’t show proof of sustaining themselves here.
The issue prompted some Jamaicans to call for a boycott of Trinidad and Tobago products and at least one Trinidad and Tobago manufacturer eventually had his goods pulled by a supermarket owner in Jamaica.
But at a news conference at the VIP lounge at Piarco International Airport Sunday, upon return from the ACS Summit in Cuba, Rowley, noting that there is a sentiment being fuelled in Jamaica that their nationals are not welcome in Trinidad and Tobago and that was not true, said he addressed the matter directly with Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness while in Cuba.
“The Jamaican Prime Minister and I agreed that the time has come that this matter be put to bed by the voice of T&T speaking directly to the people of Jamaica. I propose to do so myself,” Rowley said. He confirmed that before he left for the ACS, Holness haD asked for a meeting in Havana to discuss the dispute. He said while in Cuba, he had an extensive meeting with Holness, his Foreign Minister and the Attorney General.
The Jamaicans, according to Rowley, accepted Trinidad and Tobago’s position “that there’s no policy of discrimination against Jamaicans in T&T”. He said he also reminded them that there are Jamaican nationals who are doing the right things here in Trinidad and Tobago as students, workers taking on jobs and the bond between Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica is very strong.
Describing the dispute as unproductive and negative, Rowley said it would not be tolerated, especially by those who think they can prosper by “the fanning of these flames”.
“I want to reiterate as Prime Minister of T&T that we have absolutely no intention to allow our relationship with Jamaica to fester and to become a sore,” he said.
In an interview with the T&T Guardian at the height of the dispute, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica William Mafood had even suggested that Jamaicans over many years had been ill-treated by Trinidad and Tobago. He also said that the members of private sector organisations in the Caricom-member states should come together to talk about integration, since the leaders had faltered and failed the Caricom people.
Responding Sunday to Mafood’s suggestion that the private sector organisations of the Caricom nations should bypass the leaders of those countries and start to talk integration, Rowley said: “If we manage to reach the stage of a Single Market and Economy, where nobody has the right to complain about anybody else’s goods, then there would be no opportunity for persons to try to better their own competing position by ascribing to others’ behaviour that cannot be substantiated.”
On the issue of a Caricom Single Market, Rowley said even before the meeting in Havana, Trinidad and Tobago had indicated to the Caricom Secretariat that “at the Heads of Government Meeting which is due in July, in Guyana, T&T would send correspondence to the Caricom to indicate that the dormant matter on the Single Market and Economy, which has been allowed to fall off the Caricom table, will be placed back on the table by T&T. We don’t need Mr Mafood to tell us on this issue”, Rowley said.
Rowley said the immigration issue is one which the leaders must deal with and not any one individual. He added that immigration officers act according to immigration laws and are guided by the attorneys general in their respective nations, therefore any issue of using the laws to deter Jamaicans from entering the country is not true.