Caribbean community

Caribbean leaders conclude two-day summit

 

jcharles@MiamiHerald.com

Caribbean Community leaders continued their calls for the Dominican Republic to correct a ruling by its constitutional court stripping citizenship from thousands of Dominican-born children of Haitian migrants as they wrapped up a two-day summit in this eastern Caribbean island.

Leaders, who late last year put the Spanish-speaking Caribbean nation’s application to join their 15-member economic bloc on hold to protest the ruling, said they will not return as observers in the ongoing talks between Haiti and the Dominican Republic until they see a draft legislation promised to them by Dominican President Danilo Medina.

Medina’s government and that of Haitian President Michel Martelly have held two bilateral talks to address a number of issues, including the citizenship ruling. Caricom, which went as an observer to the first, bowed out of the second pending a review of the law. Medina had promised to have it to them by Feb. 27, leaders said.

“When we get that new legislation, then we will reenter the Haiti-DR bilateral commission,” said Caricom chairman and St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. “We really need to see the Dominican Republic make some progress. They have to show us they are doing something.”

Haiti, which is a member of Caricom, wasn’t the only country that received leaders’ support after two-days of discussions on 20 different topics ranging from an “intense” debate on the decriminalizing of marijuana, to aggressively pursuing climate change initiatives. The embattled prime minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, and president of Guyana also received support from colleagues.

In a closing news conference, Gonsalves gave support to St. Kitts Prime Minister Denzil Douglas and criticized the opposition in its bid to unseat Douglas, the longest-serving Caribbean leader. He’s in his fourth, five-year consecutive term as prime minister, and this month marks his 25th year as a parliamentarian.

More than a year ago, the opposition called for a vote of “no confidence” against Douglas, who said reiterated this week that he has no intention of stepping down. The opposition has taken the matter to court, a move Gonsalves criticized.

“When men function like that, you ask yourself whether they are ready for test cricket,” Gonsalves said.

As the conference started Monday, a handful of protesters held placards asking Caricom to take an official position on the situation in St. Kitts, where some are asking for Douglas to either call early elections or allow the “no confidence” vote to take place.

The Caricom chairman said what’s happening in St. Kitts is different from what’s taking place in Guyana, where that country’s opposition has spent more than a year blocking the passage of an anti-money laundering bill President Donald Ramotar and the U.S. supports.

“If Guyana’s parliament doesn’t past the legislation, there will be a black listing of Guyana,” Gonsalves said, calling on the opposition in the English-speaking South American nation to “pull back from petty politicking and do something in the interest of the nation.

“What we have done in Guyana is not to interfere with the Democratic process,” Gonsalves said, nothing that Guyana’s predicament threatens to impact all of Caricom while the situation in St. Kitts is a political matter that has to be solved politically.

“What we have in St. Kitts is, there is political competition, intense political competition, between two political parties or two political forces,” Gonsalves said.

Outside of those strong stance, leaders agreed to set up various commissions to further study a number of matters including the use of medical marijuana in their countries. And while they agreed on a 10-point slavery reparations justice plan, leaders yet again delayed a decision on the hiring of a British law firm to defend their claims against former slave-holding European nations.

Gonsalves, however, insisted both decisions were huge steps forward despite critics’ charge that they were indicative of leaders’ reluctance to take tough decisions, preferring instead to send them to be further studied.

Other measured agreed to by Caribbean leaders include:

• Calling for a road map by July on how to, among other things, bring technology to the people; engage the diaspora; and address Cyber security issues as part of the move to catch up with the digital revolution.

• Creating a Human Resources Development Commission to shape a regional, educational strategy.

• Staging a conference with Europe on slavery reparations issue.

• Supporting Trinidad and Tobago in its bid to make Port-of-Spain the headquarters for the Small Arms Treaty.

• Holding a high level consultation with leaders of commerce and industry in July as part of their efforts to get their island-nations dire financial situation improved.

• Boosting the region’s engagement in climate change initiatives.

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