Despite initial utterances of dissatisfaction with the Protocol on Contingent Rights, some CARICOM member states later had a change of heart, Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge said yesterday while noting that following vetting, Guyana will be in a position to sign.
“…when the Heads had convened it wasn’t clear that it would have been ready for signing. In other words, not enough of the countries prior to the meeting indicated that they were satisfied”, the Minister told reporters attending a press conference.
At the recent 39th Regular Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in Jamaica, six states signed the protocol which will enable the spouses and children of skilled workers to travel with them across the region. Guyana did not sign the protocol.
Greenidge said that by the time the Heads spoke to each other, “I think a number of them changed their minds and indicated that they didn’t have a difficulty or that they only needed to formally check these things’.
He told reporters that the relevant documents will be vetted for a “final pass” by the relevant agencies and “I am sure that we will be in a position to sign it reasonably quickly”. He did not give a timeline as to when the Guyana could possibly sign.
The protocol, which was signed by Barbados, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St Lucia and Suriname, paves the way for “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,” said CARICOM Chairman, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness at the press conference held at the end of the heads meeting in Jamaica.
Holness said this was a longstanding matter and a major step that will encourage greater use of the free movement regime as it ensures greater level of comfort and peace of mind for families. “This is a crucial step to making CARICOM more functional and relevant to the people of the region,” Holness had said.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley had on the occasion said that when she was last in government, “the Protocol on Contingent Rights was there ready for signature. Ten years have elapsed since.” For this protocol to have been signed, she had said, was the most significant event in the history of Caribbean affairs since the single market was approved in Jamaica and came into effect in 2006.
A week ago, Greenidge had told this newspaper that the Guyana government was reviewing the Protocol and it will be signed “in good time”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he said, “does not sign off on these matters without the final draft first being cleared with the Attorney General’s Chambers and the executing agencies.” There were issues, he said, which other countries had objected to and which were subjected to considerations. He did not say what those issues were.