Prime Minister Freundel Stuart (fourth from left), is pictured with other regional leaders at the opening ceremony of the 33rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which took place yesterday at the William Jefferson Clinton Ballroom, Sandals Grande St.Lucian Spa and Beach Resort, Castries. (A. Gaskin/BGIS)

Contrary to rumours – the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is invigorated and on a clear path to development.

That is the word from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as he provided an update on the status of the Caribbean Community to members of the media. His comments were made late yesterday at the end of day one of the 33rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM. The three-day summit is being held at the Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa and Beach Resort, in Castries.??

He said: "The speeches you heard this morning [at the opening ceremony] all attested to the fact that CARICOM is alive and well. Yes, we have our challenges- but who doesn’t, and what you heard this morning would have left you in no doubt that regional heads are determined to wrestle these challenges to the ground, and to ensure that this movement survives. The stakes are too high; the people of the region expect us to deliver on this project, and we are determined to do so."

Asked if he thought Jamaica was committed to the regional integration movement, since there were some concerns expressed in the media that the CARICOM state was not fully on board, Prime Minister Stuart noted: "I don’t think anybody can be in any doubt now about the commitment of the Government of Jamaica to the regional integration process. As I indicated yesterday, (Tuesday) Jamaica was one of the signatories to the Treaty of Chaguaramas and has, from then until now, with varying degrees of intensity, committed itself to the regional integration movement.

"It will be recalled that between 1976 and about 1983, CARICOM Heads [of Government] did not meet at all but, since then, Heads have met consistently and Jamaica has always been at the table, as have been all of the other signatories of the Treaty of Chaguaramas. So, that question has been answered".

In his remarks at the opening ceremony, Chairman of this year’s conference and host Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony, reminded his colleagues that they were charged with the task of steering their various ships of state in what could be sometimes termed treacherous waters. He told his counterparts that there should be "one common agenda" to ensure the prosperity of member states, adding that the governance structure needed to be re-organised at the national level "on our own terms" and not as a result of pressure from external forces.

At the close of yesterday’s business session, the CARICOM Heads examined ways of advancing the Regional Agenda for Economic Development, and they exchanged views with the Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States, Jos?? Miguel Insulza, and the Secretary-General of the African Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP), Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas.

They will meet today in caucus to continue their deliberations.


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