CARICOM to up free movement of skilled persons, families

-status of ganja as illicit drug to be reviewed by member states

Andrew Holness

The just-concluded CARICOM Heads of Government conference has recommitted to the free movement of skills across the region and has agreed that all states will put in place the necessary legislative framework to facilitate all ten approved categories of skills by December 31st, 2018.

This is according to CARICOM Chairman and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who told a press conference last evening at the end of the meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica, that the heads also promised that they would ensure “family unifications through the granting of important rights to spouses and dependents of citizens that move across the region to work to provide their services at established companies.”

They have guaranteed these rights, he said, through the Protocol on Contingent Rights, which the Heads of Government signed just prior to the start of the press conference.

“This is a matter that has been long outstanding and is a major step that should encourage the free movement regime as it ensures greater level of comfort and peace of mind for families,” he said, while adding that it was a crucial step to making CARICOM more functional and relevant to the people of the region.

Speaking of the current classification of marijuana as an illicit drug, he said, the heads recognised that it presents a challenge in the conduct of research to fully understand and ascertain the medicinal value of cannabis.

“We, therefore, agreed that action is necessary at the national level by the relevant authorities to review the relevant status of marijuana as a schedule one drug with a view to reclassification.”

They also agreed, he said, that each member state would determine its own pathway to pursue the law reforms necessary as proposed by the Regional Marijuana Commission in keeping with its own circumstances.

The report of the Regional Marijuana Commission was presented to the heads yesterday.

“The commission is unanimous in its view that the current classification for cannabis/ marijuana as a ‘dangerous drug’ with ‘no value’ or narcotic should be changed to a classification of legal cannabis as a ‘controlled substance,’” the report has stated.

Decriminalising possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use has also been addressed in the report. It comes at a time when there is renewed focus in Guyana on ending imprisonment for small quantities of the drug.

Another achievement of the conference, he said, was the unanimous adoption of procedures on the refusal of entry, which will be applied at the border. “These procedures which all members must have in place no later than August 1st, 2018, will guide border officials on how they should treat nationals who are refused entry. This will safeguard the rights of all community nationals moving across the region. This is a matter of great importance to many,” he said.

The procedures follow the highly publicised case of Jamaican Shanique Myrie who was denied entry into Barbados in 2011 and who successfully challenged the Barbadian immigration authorities at the Caribbean Court of Justice.

To continue the momentum to deliver for the region’s citizens in term of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), Holness said the leaders also agreed to a special meeting of the heads on the CSME to be held in Trinidad and Tobago in November. 

He noted, too, that the Prime Ministerial sub-committee on the CSME will now have quarterly meetings beginning in September in Barbados to be hosted by Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley. These meetings are to give urgency to the implementation of the process, he said.

Great focus was placed, he said, on advancing those areas which would help to create enabling support measures for a competitive single market. These include an investment policy, an investment code, an incentive regime, an integrated capital market, and securities legislation. “These mechanisms will enable strong support measures for a successful CSME,” he posited.

As leaders, he said, they expect that these matters will be ready for full adoption at the 40th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in July, 2019.

Holness said the heads also agreed to simplified administrative procedures for the issuance of skilled certificates and police certificates of character.

In relation to the CARICOM Review Commission Report, which was commissioned by the Jamaican government and adopted by the heads, Holness said they agreed that it would be taken into account in the work of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the CSME and at the special meeting of the heads at the conference in November, 2018.     

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