The Thirty-Fifth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was held at Dickenson Bay, Antigua and Barbuda, from 1-4 July 2014. The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, the Honourable Gaston Browne, chaired the proceedings.
Other members of the Conference in attendance were: the Prime Minister of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, Rt. Honourable Perry G. Christie; the Prime Minister of Barbados, Rt. Honourable Freundel Stuart; the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit; the Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Rt. Honourable Keith Mitchell; the President of the Republic of Guyana, His Excellency Donald Ramotar; the President of the Republic of Haiti, His Excellency Michel Martelly; the Prime Minister of Jamaica, The Most Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller; the Premier of Montserrat, Honourable Reuben Meade; the Prime Minister of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, Rt. Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas; the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Dr. the Honourable Kenny D. Anthony; the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves; and the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Suriname was represented by the Vice President His Excellency Robert Ameerali, while Belize was represented by the Honourable Wilfred Elrington, Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Associate Members in attendance were: Honourable Alden M. McLaughlin, Jr, Premier of Cayman Islands; Honourable Jerome Roberts, acting Chief Minister of Anguilla; Honourable Michael Fahy, Minister of Home Affairs of Bermuda; and Honourable Ricardo Don Hue Gardiner, Minister of Border Control and Labour of Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Opening Ceremony was held on the afternoon of 1 July at the Sandals Grande Hotel, Dickenson Bay. It was addressed by: the Chair of the Conference of Heads of Government, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, the Honourable Gaston Browne; the immediate past Chair, the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves; and Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.
During the Ceremony, Ms. Marion Bethel of The Bahamas was bestowed with the Eleventh CARICOM Triennial Award for Women.
The official CARICOM Song was played for the first time and the composer, Ms. Michele Henderson of Dominica, received her prize and performed the piece.
Heads of Government paid tribute to the former President of Haiti, His Excellency Leslie Manigat, who passed away just prior to the Meeting of the Conference.
All the statements struck a chord of strengthening the integration process and emphasising that the Community’s strength was in its collective action.
In his address, the Secretary-General alluded to the severe economic conditions being experienced by most Member States but assured that the spirit of unity which prevailed within the Community was ensuring that there would be a collective response.
“It is in recognition of the need to find a regional resolution to the regional problem that our Heads of Government mandated that we prepare a Strategic Plan, which seeks to reposition the Community and which will inform the institutional mechanisms to carry it forward,” the Secretary-General said.
The immediate past Chair gave an overview of his tenure and indicated some of the highlights, emphasising that CARICOM’s accomplishments must not be forgotten as they ‘constitute a part of the permanent landscape of our Region’s political economy.’
Prime Minister Gonsalves outlined some of the main issues to be addressed at the Meeting, placing them in the context of the difficulties with which the people of the Region are contending. He urged understanding of the situation by all and encouraged civil society, including businesses and trade unions, to appreciate the continuing difficulties and act responsibly.
Prime Minister Gonsalves observed that “a concerted regional approach is required to improve our economies, create wealth and jobs, and manage much better our fiscal and debt condition, and strengthen the social safety net for those who are disadvantaged”.
The Chairman in welcoming all to Dickenson Bay, recalled that it was there in 1965, that the leaders of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Guyana signed the CARIFTA accord “that reignited the flame of regional integration from the embers of the West Indies Federation.”
Prime Minister Browne said this was the time to set aside the “illusion of national salvation entirely by national effort.”
“National efforts are crucial in all sectors of our economy and in every aspect of our societies, but such efforts should not discount or disdain regional collaboration,” he added.
The Prime Minister stated his commitment to ensure that his country would do what is necessary to replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom with the Caribbean Court of Justice as its final court of appeal.