High hopes for CARICOM Summit
Court of Justice, single market, crime for focus
Brazilian President cancels out By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
July 3, 2002

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CARICOM Heads are set to kick off their 23rd meeting in Georgetown this afternoon with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the single market, regional security and crime set to be major agenda items.

But a major disappointment is the cancellation of the attendance of Brazil's President Fernando Henrique Cardoso who should have arrived here on Monday. The Brazilian President had to cancel his trip because of pressing economic matters.

Cardoso was to engage the CARICOM Heads in talks about deepening the region's relationship with the South American continent and with the Mercosur trade bloc.

At least one of the Heads has concerns about the length of the agenda for the meeting. However, observers have told Stabroek News that many of the items on the agenda are not for discussion but merely for mentioning and there would be ample time for discussions on the key items. They point out too that many of the items are there because the last Summit asked that they be placed on the agenda again this year.

The CCJ in its original jurisdiction is crucial to the operations of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and there are concerns about the arrangements to ensure an independent source of funding for its operations after the initial five-year period. One possibility is the establishment of a trust fund that would be sufficient to generate the income needed to fund the annual budget of the CCJ.

A team of experts has been looking at ways to fund the Court's operations during the initial five years including identifying sources of donor funding. However, there is a feeling that member countries will have to make some contribution to the Court.

Concern about funding for the court, which is to be headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago, has hindered its establishment, originally planned for October last year.

Single Market

The Single Market mooted since 1989 and still to be fully implemented thirteen years after will be given a boost with the approval of the revised treaty incorporating the nine protocols that have been agreed but are not yet fully in force. The Heads will be looking at the timetable for activating them all by the passage of the relevant national legislation.

With Guyana in the chair from the beginning of today's meet, President Bharrat Jagdeo will likely to be pushing for a diagnostic review of the present CARICOM institutions and for the articulation of a vision of the Community another three decades down the road.

An economist by training, President Jagdeo has been presiding over a fiscally challenged economy and has been forced to look at the various CARICOM institutions to see whether the country was getting value for its money. Two areas on which this piercing searchlight has been focused have been its contributions to the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and to the Council for Legal Education for Guyanese students who attend its Hugh Wooding Law School.

In relation to CARDI, Guyana has already indicated that it would no longer contribute to the institution unless it is restructured. The President's restructuring proposals did not find favour with his colleagues and the University of the West Indies was asked to put up its ideas on the issue. That too, Stabroek News understands, did not find favour with the Community's Ministers of Agriculture.

President Jagdeo is advocating a unit in the Secretariat that would be responsible for designing a regional agricultural programme, coordinating the work of the regional research bodies as well as technical assistance being given to the region among other things.

The CLE is another institution to which Guyana has been rationalising its contribution if only to bring it in line with domestic policies. The government has cut back its commitment to only the students it has sponsored to read for the Certificate of Legal Education. It will no longer be paying the economic cost of tuition for Guyanese students resident overseas. Critics of the cooperative agreement to which the CLE is a signatory believe that Guyana's contribution could be better spent beefing up the law programme and personnel at the University of Guyana.

Crime and security

Besides the recommendations of the task force on crime and security, CARICOM Heads are likely to return to trying to forge a joint approach to the United States on a memorandum of understanding related to the return of deportees convicted of violent crimes. Some CARICOM states have already signed bilateral arrangements with the US on this matter but some heads feel that their governments require some assistance in reintegrating these citizens into the society and meeting the security challenge posed to their law enforcement agencies by their presence.

The 100 recommendations crafted by the task force are due to be discussed when the Heads meet in caucus. The venue for this will be Herdmanston House.

The Heads will also look at a report from their foreign ministers on how the Community's foreign relations could become more focused. They will also address the round of negotiations in which the Community is involved in, including the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) meeting in Fiji as well as the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in South Africa.

Civil society

Preceding the summit is the Civil Society Encounter, which opened yesterday and ends today. The encounter should have been held three years ago but was rescheduled for a number of reasons to this year. The heads have had some concerns about civil society organisations as they relate to transparency in their activities; their intrusion into the realm of politics and with the size of the membership of some of these organisations.

The Heads are looking forward to the recommendations that would come from the encounter, which they hope would be incorporated into the body of thought in the region on the various challenges it faces.

The Heads are anxious to have civil society become more involved in promoting the establishment of the Single Market because of the need to educate the ordinary people of its benefits and challenges. Moreover they say too that the peoples of the region need to be aware of the threats posed by the various world trade bodies as some of their decisions have life-changing consequences for the people of the region.

Meanwhile, as the preparations reach fever pitch for this afternoon's opening session, a number of the Heads have already arrived. The Prime Ministers already here are Trinidad and Tobago's, Patrick Manning, Jamaica's P J Patterson, Belize's Said Musa and Suriname's President, Ronald Venetiaan. Those due in last night were Antigua and Barbuda's Lester Bird, St Lucia's Dr Kenny Anthony, St Kitts/Nevis' Dr Denzil Douglas, Barbados' Owen Arthur, and The Bahamas' Perry Christie. Due in today are Grenada's Dr Keith Mitchell and Haiti's President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Already here are President of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr Compton Bourne, and Commonwealth Secretary-General, Don McKinnon. Expected today are Organisation of American States, Secretary-General, Cesar Gaviria and Director of the Food and Agricultural Organisation Jacques Diouf, the Secretary General of the ACP, Jean-Robert Goulongan, CARICAD director, Dr Patrick Gomes, the Regional Negotiating Machinery's executive director, Dr Richard Bernal and Secretary-General of the Association of Caribbean States, Dr Norman Girvan.

At the Opening Ceremony today at the National Cultural Centre beginning at 5 pm, presentations are to be made by CARICOM Secretary-General, Edwin Carrington and Prime Ministers, Musa, Christie and Anthony and President Jagdeo. There will also be a brief presentation by Professor Rhoda Reddock who is being honoured with the region's triennial award for women. There will also be a short cultural presentation but this will not be part of the official programme that is being beamed live to the rest of the region by the Caribbean Media Corporation.

Meanwhile, police and government sources continue to exude confidence that the safety of the country's guests is assured despite the recent crime wave.