St Vincent PM talks free movement of Caribbean nationals
“A more mature, more profound regionalism,” says Dr Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, is the only way that regional governments and peoples can tackle the social and economic challenges as well as deal with the frequent natural disasters. This approach, he challenged, “ought to be a noise in the blood, an echo in the bone of our Caribbean civilisation”.
A packed audience was present for his address, the third in the Distinguished Open Lecture series hosted by The University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine focusing on CARICOM: exploring its usefulness to the region and its future, following its 40th anniversary celebrations under a year ago.
A signatory of the 2001 Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the Caribbean Community including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy on behalf of the government and people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Gonsalves was ideally placed to review the Shanique Myrie case in the context of community law for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as envisioned by the 22nd meeting of the Conference of Heads of State.
In exploring the topic, “Free Movement of People, Shanique Myrie and Our Caribbean Civilisation”, he noted that the 2007 Conference decision further allowed all CARICOM nationals an automatic stay of six months upon arrival “in order to enhance their sense that they belong to, and can move in the Caribbean Community, subject to the right of member states to refuse undesirable entry and to prevent persons from becoming a charge on public funds”.
Gonsalves pointed out several implications of the Myrie judgment. Among these was the acknowledgement that decisions of Conference Heads are now explicitly accorded the status of being a vital part of Community law and therefore Conference decisions, particularly those that touch and concern the rights of Community nationals, must be carefully formulated.
Further, CARICOM governments have an obligation to ensure that domestic law be put in conformity with Community law since – should there be inconsistency on any relevant matter — Community law would prevail. Also, immigration and other border control officials must incorporate the Myrie guidelines provided by the CCJ at the points of entry to member states of CARICOM.
He advocated immense education of these officials and alterations of pre-existing domestic regulations and procedures to conform to Community law.
According to Gonsalves, “The Myrie judgment opens up the CARICOM’s member states to all Community nationals, thus giving life and meaning to regional integration.”
He acknowledged that there still remains a controversial and problematic legal issue of the machinery for the enforcement of the decisions of the CCJ.