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Remarks By The Secretary-general Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Irwin Larocque At The Opening Of The Thirty-seventh Regular Meeting Of The Conference Of Heads Of Government Of The Caribbean Community   Georgetown, Guyana 4 July 2016

Posted in: Speeches by admin | 05 July 2016 | 3558

    Normally I would begin by welcoming you all to the Thirty-Seventh Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).  However, I believe it is only fitting that at the outset, we should pay tribute  to a true  champion of CARICOM, the late Mr. Patrick Manning, former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, who passed away last Saturday.

    Mr. Manning was a Member of the Conference for a total of 13 years, and, in that time, he demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the Caribbean Community. The initiatives he promoted to advance integration ensures that his legacy as a regionalist is secure. His calm and deliberate manner was a distinctive feature during the Meetings of Conference.  


    I extend to the Manning family and to the Government and People of Trinidad and Tobago our sincere condolences on the death of this outstanding CARICOM Leader. May I ask you all to stand for a moment of silence to reflect on the life of Mr. Manning and his contribution to regional integration.


    Thank You.


    Mr. Chairman, I would like to express appreciation to His Excellency the President of Guyana and his Government for demonstrating the true spirit of community for readily agreeing to co-host this meeting once Dominica signalled its inability to do so.


    Since our Meeting last July, there have been several elections in our Community. In that regard, I congratulate and say a special welcome to Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica and Honourable Alan Chastanet, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia. I also congratulate Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and His Excellency President Desire Bouterse of Suriname. 


    To our Chairman, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica, I look forward to working closely with you as we advance our integration.  You can be assured, Prime Minister, of my full support and that of the CARICOM Secretariat during your tenure.


    I must express great appreciation to the Honourable Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize for his exemplary leadership of the Community during the past six months.  I thank him for his guidance, advice and ready support to me.


    At this meeting, it is our pleasure to welcome as our Special Guest, Her Excellency Michele Bachelet, the President of Chile. This is a country with which the Community has had long-standing friendly and cooperative links. We look forward to a fruitful exchange of views with Her Excellency on areas of mutual interest.


    Mr. Chairman, today is CARICOM Day, marking 43 years since the Treaty of Chaguaramas was signed.  As we celebrate this day, we can look back with pride on the progress of our integration process, and forward with confidence to what we can continue to achieve together.  As a grouping of small, vulnerable states it is integration that will allow us to achieve the level of development that our people desire and deserve.  We have ample evidence over the four decades of the value and benefit of pooling our skills and resources.


    Over the next two days, this Conference will be focussed on addressing issues which have an impact on our Community, both from within and from outside the Region. In so doing we will discuss what course of actions can be taken collectively to improve the lives of all our citizens.


    For example, we will address the issue of Crime and Security and how we can improve on the regional framework and collaboration in fighting this growing menace to our safety and development. The level of crime is disturbing and has a negative impact on our societies and our economies. There is no doubt that it requires a concerted regional response.


    We will look at the regional economy and some of the economic and financial challenges that we all continue to face. Among them is the issue of de-risking and the loss of correspondent banking which threatens our financial, commercial and trading sectors as well as remittances.  We will review the course of action we undertook since the Intersessional Meeting of Conference last February and determine our next steps.


    We will receive an overview of the CSME, ten years after it came into being. Our Member States remain resolute that it is the only viable option for sustained economic growth. While we have made progress, there is no denying that we could have been further ahead, although challenges remain in some areas. We must do what is required to move the process forward.


    There are challenges related to our free movement regime and the facilitation of travel. It is accepted that Member States have the right to deny entry. However, the Caribbean Court of Justice has ruled on the specific circumstances under which they may do so, and provided guidance on the procedures that should be followed once that course of action is taken. To help in remedying some of the problems, we must increase the training and sensitisation of our immigration officials for them to act more closely in line with the policies agreed to by their governments.


    We will review where we are on the Port of Spain Declaration on Non-Communicable Diseases as the 10 year anniversary approaches in 2017. NCDs continue to have an adverse impact on the health of our citizens. The lifestyle choices that we make, while personal, have far reaching implications for our families, our communities, our countries and our Region. We must take action to foster greater awareness of the risk factors associated with NCDs.


    Of course, our Heads of Government could not meet and not discuss Brexit. This had previously been considered by our Foreign Ministers earlier this year at their annual meeting in May.  The decision of the people of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union has far reaching implications, not only for the UK and Europe but also for us. It could impact our trade and development assistance.


    Brexit continues to dramatically unfold daily, with some consequences unforeseen and unexpected by the protagonists. It may very well change the geo-politics of the world. But no matter the uncertainties, I expect the UK and Europe will remain our partners.


    Mr Chairman, Heads of Government, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, as I begin my second term of office, I make it my mission to amplify the message of integration and its role in improving the lives of the people of the Caribbean Community. I am heartened by the voices of youth throughout our Community and the diaspora with whom I have interacted regularly during my tenure.    Their wholehearted commitment to integration is overwhelming and inspiring. We must continue in our quest to fulfil their hopes and dreams at this Thirty-Seventh Meeting.


    I thank you.