Free & fair elections the hallmark of Caricom – Bahamian PM
… as Regional Head warns corrupt Govt Ministers
38th Heads of Government meeting
The strong tradition of free and fair democratic elections that are a hallmark of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) – a sentiment expressed by one of the newest leaders in the Region, Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Alexander Minnis – was made as he addressed the opening ceremony of the 38th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of Caricom currently underway in Grenada.
Prime Minister Minnis had moments earlier lauded the efforts of Guyana’s President David Granger for his stewardship of the work of the Community during his stint as Chairman – himself facing a backlash in his homeland over the delays in the appointment of the Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
The Bahamian Prime Minister told those in attendance at the Grenada Trade Centre that his recent election to office in May last and presence at the Caricom head of Government meeting, “reaffirms the strong tradition of free and fair democratic elections that are a hallmark of Caricom.”
The newly elected Prime Minister in his presentation spoke to some of the other challenges facing the region including climate change, a push for renewable energy and tackling non communicable diseases but singled out corruption as one of the more formidable challenges to Governments across the region.
According to the Bahamian Prime Minister, “corruption remains a formidable challenge to small and developing countries (in the region).”
To this end, Prime Minister Minnis informed the regional leaders that his recently elected Administration has adopted a firm zero tolerance stance on corruption.
“We are determined to brutally confront this challenge. In this regard my Government has implemented a policy of zero tolerance for corruption.”
According to Prime Minister Minnis, “all Ministers have been told that they would be immediately dismissed if they are found out to be soliciting or accepting payments.”
He told the bi-annual gathering “we will implement strong anti-corruption laws and measures.”
Prime Minister Minnis did also use his time at the podium to publicly thank President Granger for his tireless chairmanship of Caricom during the past six months.
The recently elected Prime Minister did use his time during his inaugural address to lament “Caricom is a community of the people we serve not a club of officials and politicians.”
Also addressing the gathering of leaders of the 38th meeting of Caricom Head of Government was Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque, who spoke to some of the challenges that still face the Region.
He outlined challenges in the health sector such as the treatment of non-communicable diseases which can cost member states as much as five per cent of their entire Gross Domestic Product.
He spoke too of crime and security being a regional problem that requires a regional solution.
LaRocque used the occasion to laud the progress made with regards regional legislative instruments and expressed optimism that the Regional Leaders will sign on to the Caricom Arrest Warrant Treaty at the ongoing conference.
The challenges associated with climate change were also noted by LaRocque and the region as well as other financial challenges posed to the region as a result of blacklisting or the loss of correspondent banks.
The Secretary General was optimistic in his outlook that “as daunting as challenges are, none can survive the collective ingenuity of the people of the Caricom.”
According to LaRocque, “we have proven that no challenge can daunt us.”
The ceremony got underway at the Grenada Trade Centre, under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell.
The activity got underway with a roll call of regional leaders after which there were the formal presentations by the Secretary General among others.
One glaring hiccup at the opening ceremony however obtained when the newly elected Haitian President, Jovenel Moise, made his presentation in his native tongue French but there was no translation/translators which left the non-French speaking participants at a disadvantage since none could understand his inaugural address to the regional leaders.
Following Tuesday’s opening ceremony the Heads of Government will move to the Radisson Grenada Beach Resort for the business sessions on the confab to be wrapped tomorrow at which time a Communique documenting the formal decisions taken by the regional leaders.
This year’s 38th Conference of Heads is also expected to include the presentations for approval by the Heads of a Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy and Implementation Plan to address the development of skills for the 21st century Caribbean economy and society.
The Heads of Government are also expected to deliberate on outstanding matters related to the implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) following the comprehensive review of the CSME’s performance presented to them at the last Inter-Sessional Meeting in February.
There is also expected to be an update on the preparations for CARIFESTA XIII to be staged in Barbados from August 17-27 under the theme “Asserting our Culture, Celebrating Ourselve”.
The work on the commissions on reparations and marijuana is also expected to come under the spotlight.