Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has promised that two recent reported incidents involving Jamaican travellers to Barbados will be fully investigated, but he is already insisting that that there will be no repeat of the Shanique Myrie “mistakes”.
The Barbadian leader, who has responsibility for immigration, also assured his Jamaican counterpart Andrew Holness that if it were found that there was any impropriety on the part of local officials, the requisite sanctions would be applied.
Stuart telephoned his Caribbean Community (CARICOM) counterpart Wednesday at the height of public discussion over the two incidents, which have brought back memories of a very ugly incident nearly five-and-a-half years ago that wound up before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
A deeply concerned Holness also made mention of the Myrie case that ended in the award of damages to the Jamaican woman by the Trinidad-based CCJ, which is Barbados’ final court, on the grounds that her rights as a CARICOM national were breached during the now infamous finger search by Barbadian immigration authorities.
In response, Stuart noted that given its precedent-setting nature, it was natural that the Myrie case would be evoked, but said it was one unfortunate incident when compared with the thousands of Jamaicans who come to Barbados and enter uneventfully. The Barbadian leader, who has responsibility for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy which allows for freedom of movement for nationals of participating states, said that in the fullness of time he hoped to have a chance to address the Jamaican public on the issues.
In a statement issued by the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) following today’s bilateral discussion with his Jamaican counterpart, Stuart also noted that challenges would occur from time to time in the CARICOM free movement initiative but stressed that it was early days yet in the execution of the guidelines in the CCJ court decision.
According to him, the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas “had set out the ideal, but the Court had sought to put flesh on the dry bones of that ideal”. Stuart said that wherever challenges arose the Government of Barbados would, as should be the case with other CARICOM Governments, try to make sure that mistakes were corrected and not repeated.
In response to the intimation of Holness that the recent matters could end up before the CCJ, Stuart indicated that that was the right of the individuals which no one could deny.
He assured his Jamaican counterpart that his Government would give the fullest cooperation in ensuring that propriety obtains in the matters. He stressed that it was important that the recent issues be managed carefully and not be allowed to undermine the good relations between the two countries.
In a recent case, Sonya King, a 24-year-old Jamaican, said she was planning to sue the Barbados Government over the treatment she and her 14-month-old baby received when they attempted to enter the country for a holiday. King claimed she and the baby arrived at Grantley Adams International Airport from Trinidad where she has lived for the past four years, and were denied entry by the immigration officer who told her she should have gone to Jamaica instead. She also claimed she was denied hot water to make the child some tea, and that even though the baby’s pampers were soaking wet, she wasn’t allowed to touch her suitcase. To compound matters, King complained that things got much worse when she was given a dirty mattress on which to sleep in cold, uncomfortable conditions.
However, those claims have been totally denied by immigration officials who have since been faced with similar complaints of inhumane treatment from 30-year-old Marsha Lee Cooke, who was recently found not guilty of assaulting and resisting three police officers on arrival at GAIA on June 28. Cooke claimed she was strip-searched twice, accused of bringing drugs into Barbados, beaten, arrested and remanded for 16 days at Dodds Prisons.
Holness has expressed deep concern over the reported incidents which Stuart described as unfortunate.
He also said that on becoming aware of the matters, he had immediately sought a full briefing on each of them.
During the telephone call which was intended to ease any diplomatic strain between the two founding members of CARICOM, Stuart also took the opportunity to congratulate Holness and the Jamaican people for that island’s excellent performance in the recent Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He asserted that Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt had written his name indelibly in gold and congratulated Jamaica for showcasing the Caribbean to the world.