By: By Cabral Douglas BA, L.LB
According to Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit free movement of people should be afforded to all CARICOM nationals.
“We have to move towards ensuring that every citizen has the ability to move freely within our countries…”he said.
Under current CSME protocols, free movement of skilled community nationals has been restricted to certain categories of persons namely:
A) University Graduates
B) Media Workers
C) Sports Persons
D) Artists and
Skerrit adressing the regional press at a recently concluded Heads of Government meeting in Grenada added:
“I think the ordinary man needs to see a more direct impact on his ability to move as a result of the free market…”
Is this the same man who, at a cabinet meeting, 6 days in advance of their arrival in Dominica, ordered the arrest, incarceration, and deportation of Jamaican artist Tommy Lee Sparta, and his entire entourage from Dominica?
In light the view expressed last week in Grenada, what was the justification for such brutal, degrading and inhuman treatment of 4 innocent Jamaican citizens, and CARICOM nationals?
When asked this very question by Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) justice Wit at a recently concluded hearing, Dominica Attorney General Levi Peter declared, that the 4 Jamaican nationals posed a threat to Dominica’s “national security”.
Yet when asked by Justice Wit to substantiate such an outrageous claim Peter simply replied:
“Your honour I understand the question but I think I would prefer respectfully not to seek to answer that question…”
Quite curiously, the 5 member panel of CCJ justices, deemed this as a satisfactory answer, and casualty moved the proceedings along without ever requiring Peter to explain to the court how a dancehall artist scheduled to perform a 30 minute set at a private theatre in Dominica could pose a risk to the national security of the country???
One could understand if the Skerrit administration were to declare international criminal suspects like Aliraza Monfared, NG Lap Seng or Francisco Corallo (all offered diplomatic postings by the Skerrit administration) national security threats in the current climate of terrorism facilated through the proceeds of crime, but a dancehall artist from Montego Bay, and his support staff?
How could this be possible?
Given the deafening silence on this most fundamental question, one cannot help but wonder:
Was this among the issues ventilated when CCJ president Sir Dennis Byron met with Prime Minister Skerrit in Guyana, the day before coming to a decision in favour of Dominica, the Defendant country in the matter?
Clearly only those in attendance would be able to answer, but the appearance of bias is clear to be observed by all and sundry.
But, surely there must have been a legitimate reason for the Government’s actions?
A bewildered justice Wit seemingly clutching at straws in an attempt to make sense out of nonsense asked Attorney General Peter if it was due to the Jamaicans not having applied for or obtained work permits?
Peter responds: “Maybe I should say I don’t know if that was a reason. That would probably be the best answer that I should give.”
Actually that is the worst answer he could give. It’s just as if not more nonsensical than the risk to “national security” answer that he gave.
Given the pro-regionalist position taken by his leader in Grenada, one would expect the honourable Attorney General to know by now that because artists are included as one of the categories of persons permitted to move freely under the CSME, they do not require work permits for temporary movement as service providers in approved sectors, as explained to him by Counsel representing CARICOM Ms. Gladys Young in her submissions.
But the explanation came only after Peter had already either demonstrated his ignorance of the law, or deliberately mislead the court by stating:
“My understanding is that normally the artist are required to obtain some sort of work permit, or yes, some sort of work permit, some permission to perform…they are required to apply through the Labour division for a permit to perform.”
So on the one hand you have the Prime Minister calling for the expansion of categories of persons, and on the other, his Attorney General is submitting to the CCJ that he has no idea which categories of persons are currently included under the CSME, and what their entitlements are.
Finally, in order for the Skerritt administration to have any credibility on the question of Caribbean regionalism, they need to start by setting the cases brought against them by all of the innocent parties affected by the gross negligence of his administration in the Tommy Lee Sparta deportation case.