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OUR CARIBBEAN: Not the time for surprises

Rickey Singh, [email protected]

OUR CARIBBEAN: Not the time for surprises

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SO PRIME Minister Freundel Stuart has found it necessary to quickly suspend the proposed “biometric exit” system that his administration had surprisingly announced for implementation from April l. Incidentally, this development was not intended to be an “all fools” prank for next week Friday.

The proposed plan was actively under consideration by immigration authorities while Barbadians, CARICOM nationals and the many thousands of tourists and others who normally visit this internationally famous tourism resort annually were preparing themselves for inevitable implementation.

In this era of dread terrorism and related threats to national/regional security, it would be expected that governments across our 15-member regional economic integration movement would be involved in ensuring an enlightened, secured environment. But, as previously noted, the consultative process is not a priority by our governments.

However, citizens with fears about inevitable delays by immigration at ports of entry within CARICOM must also consider that it took much time and patience for the great “land of the free and home of the brave” – of which billionaire Donald Trump idly dreams of becoming president – to cope with what has evolved as an embedded routine  at America’s ports of entry – finger printing by immigration.

Nevertheless, it’s of relevance to ask whether Prime Minister Stuart’s administration exercised any initiative, at whatever level, to alert its CARICOM partners about the proposed biometric exit tracking progamme it had originally scheduled for implementation next month?

Or, for that matter, seek to acquaint itself with new identification initiatives that have been introduced in Community states in new passports for their nationals – for example Trinidad and Tobago – perhaps Barbados’ major Community partner in trade, economic and cultural relations?

Why should Barbados, or any other CARICOM member state for that matter, want to spring as a surprise on other Community partners with an immigration system of finger printing nationals and visitors alike amid all the flowing official “talk” about  “one Community for one people”?

After all, vital national security interest makes it more important and urgent for proper consultations between and among CARICOM partner states.

As a founding member of our Caribbean Community, Barbados would be aware of its assigned special responsibility for key features of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) that extends to free movement of people.

Hence, the need for prior meaningful consultations on vital issues like, for example, the fingerprinting by immigration at ports of entry and departure. We must, therefore, await further developments that belong in the public domain. After all, questions of national/regional security and fundamental human rights are involved. It’s not a time to spring surprises.

President Obama’s Cuban visit                          

So President Barack Obama is back at the White House after becoming the first sitting US president to make an official visit to Cuba – just 90 miles away – in some 88 years. That four-letter word, Cuba, was to become a bone bitterly stuck in the throat of successive American presidents, starting in 1962 with the now late John Kennedy and culminating with the presidency of George Walker Bush that preceded that of the first African American, now completing his second term.  

Obama’s two-day official presence in Cuba resulted from a combination of tightly guarded secret initiatives last year involving the Argentine-born Pope Francis, President Obama, Canada, the New York Times and, of course Cuba’s President Raoul Castro who was there with  his legendary elder brother Fidel for an official “welcome” meeting in Havana.

The Cuban people, who have deeply suffered from the consequences of the unprecedented inhumane US trade, economic and financial embargo, have won worldwide admiration for their sacrifices in defending their political and cultural sovereignty against successive administrations in Washington.

And to this day the government and people of Cuba continue to recall with admiration the unique role initially played back in the 1970s by a quartet of CARICOM Heads of Government to end the Washington-instigated diplomatic isolation of Cuba. The quartet had comprised of Barbados’ Errol Barrow, T&T’s Eric Williams, Guyana’s Forbes Burnham and Jamaica’s Michael Manley – all no longer with us to share the political joy of Fidel and Raoul Castro welcoming Barack Obama on the first official visit to Havana by a US president.

Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.