Monday, April 11, 2011

Freedom of movement curtailed since independence of Caribbean countries

By Oscar Ramjeet

The freedom of movement of Caribbean nationals has been severely curtailed since the breakup of the West Indies Federation five decades ago and the various countries in the region gaining independence.

It is unfortunate because in the colonial days persons were free to move from one country to another, even to Barbados, without hitch, but because some governments became intoxicated with sovereignty they imposed serious restrictions.

Oscar Ramjeet is an attorney at law who practices extensively throughout the wider CaribbeanAnd although the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME) made provisions for free movements of professionals, musicians, journalists, etc., here is still a problem and regionalism does not seem to exist anymore.

There was some hope with the establishment of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the West Indies cricket team, but that seems to be shattered because there is no longer that regional togetherness of UWI students because of recent significant changes.

For instance, students from Guyana now complete their LLB degrees in Guyana and no longer have to travel to Barbados, where hundreds of students enroll every year, and now Jamaica is offering the LLB programme and this reduces the Jamaican student population at Cave Hill.

Bahamas now has its own law school and, as a result, would-be lawyers study at home.

From the 1950s up to recently, all medical students in the region have had to attend Mona, but now they can do so in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Grenada, and other Caribbean islands.

The poor performance of the West Indies cricket team has forced thousands of cricket fans to lose interest in the game and that to some degree has some effect on Caribbean unity.

The shameful behaviour of immigration and police officers at the Grantley Adams International airport against fellow Caribbean nationals should be dealt with by the Caribbean Community and it is unfortunate that CARICOM moves so slowly with these issues, as well as Caribbean unity.

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Kamla Persad Bisssessar made a couple of unfortunate statements that Trinidad and Tobago is not an ATM machine for other CARICOM countries, but she has nevertheless said that she is very much in favour of regional integration.

Owen Arthur, former Barbados prime minister, who was masquerading and preaching the importance of CSME, was critical of Mara Thompson, running for a seat in Barbados because she was not a born Bajan, but a St Lucian, although she was married to a Bajan, late Prime Minister David Thompson, for more than 20 years.

The British Overseas Dependant Territories of Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos require entry certificates (visas) from Jamaicans, Guyanese and citizens of the Dominican Republic.

For years the CARICOM has been discussing freedom of movement, but it seems as if they are not getting anywhere; as a matter of fact, it is getting worse since there is more harassment at airports, especially Barbados.

There have been reports that, in Antigua and Barbuda, Guyanese nationals are given a rough time by the Baldwin Spencer administration.

What is also unfortunate is the lack of interest and in some instances the refusal of governments to get rid of the Privy Council as their final court and accept the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final court.

Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago were the first countries to gain independence from Britain in August 1962, and it unfortunate that after nearly five decades they are still holding on to the coat tails of the United Kingdom for justice. If you had political independence so long ago why not judicial independence, especially since you have highly qualified judges who can do a better job than the English Law Lords, who are so far away and do not understand the Caribbean culture and way of life.

April 11, 2011