- Right Honourable Philip Davis, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas; and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community;
- Your Excellency Chandrikapersad Santokhi, President of the Republic of Suriname and Outgoing Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community;
- Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community;
- Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada;
- Honourable Mr. Justice Sir Ian R. Winder, Chief Justice of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas;
- Honourable Patricia Deveaux, MP, Speaker of the House of Assembly of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas;
- Senator Hon. J. LaShell Adderley, President of the Senate, Parliament of The Bahamas;
- Other Heads of Delegation;
- Other Heads of Regional and International Institutions;
- Member of the Diplomatic Corps;
- People of the Caribbean Community.
As I welcome all to the Forty-Fourth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government, I do so with that thought in mind, as our Caribbean Community approaches its 50th Anniversary, that milestones generally mark achievements, not merely the passage of time.
There will be time in the coming months to assess our achievements and justifiably celebrate the landmark anniversary. But, for this evening and over the next two days, the focus of attention is on the pressing issues of the day. This will be done in the beautiful setting provided by our hosts, the Government and
People of The Bahamas, whom I thank for the excellent arrangements and the warm hospitality we have all experienced since our arrival. This is conducive to a most productive Meeting.
Let me at the outset register the Community’s appreciation and thanks to the President of Suriname, His Excellency Chandrikapersad Santokhi, the outgoing Chairman for his outstanding tenure over the last six months. His calm demeanour and thoughtful leadership guided the Community through a difficult period. Thank you, Mr President.
I welcome and congratulate our new Chairman, the Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Rt. Honourable Philip Davis, and look forward to supporting him and his ideas for advancing our integration movement in the coming months.
I also welcome to his first regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government, the Honourable Dr. Terrance Drew, the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis who assumed office last August following his party’s victory at the polls.
Similarly victorious in recent electoral contests are the Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and the Honourable Roosevelt Skerritt, Prime Minister of Dominica. Congratulations to them as they continue to contribute to the development of our Region.
It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge the presence of the Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Prof. Benedict O. Oramah, President of the AfreximBank, and Mr. Sergio Díaz-Granados, President of CAF, the Latin American Development Bank. We welcome you as friends and supporters of the Community.
I also take this opportunity to congratulate Dame Janet Bostwick, who will be bestowed this evening with the CARICOM Triennial Award for Women, in recognition of her sterling efforts in promoting the rights of women and girls in The Bahamas, and across our Region.
Heads of Government, Distinguished Guests, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, our Member States and the global community of nations continue to face many challenges. Many of our economies began to rebound from COVID-induced contractions, only to be affected by sharp inflation and shipping bottlenecks. COVID-19 continued to hover and the conflict in Ukraine carried on. Our Member States again faced the continuing onslaught of climate change with the destruction caused by storms, rain events and drought. Our hard-won development gains continue to be threatened by these challenges.
Yet, the Caribbean Community did as we often do, we rallied against the challenges.
This is particularly important in 2023 when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Community. This is the year when we commemorate the vision created, the courage had, and the legacy left by those who went before us. It is the year when we renew our commitment to the Community and enrich this unique legacy for those who will follow us. This Meeting provides us with an opportunity to make long-lasting decisions for our peoples for the next 50 years and beyond.
The Forty-Third Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government held in Paramaribo, Suriname, 3-5 July 2022, made consequential decisions. I will refer to just two of these. The convening of this Meeting as a Regular Meeting, not intersessional, follows the agreement to establish a calendar of six (6) Meetings of the Conference annually, with regular in-person Meetings being held in February and July, and virtual intersessional meetings scheduled during the year.
The Conference in July also agreed in the context of the bilateral relationship with the United States, to urge for the removal of the sanctions on Venezuela to allow, among other things, for progress on the exploitation of cross-border natural gas fields between Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. This advocacy has borne fruit with the announcement last month by the United States to waive sanctions on Venezuela to allow for the joint project to proceed.
At this Meeting, decisions on issues such as Climate Change, Food Security, and Community Governance would have a lasting and positive effect on the Region over the next fifty years.
However, even as progress is being made on some fronts, CARICOM and indeed the wider international community continue to struggle to help Haiti resolve its multifaceted crises. We will continue our efforts to assist all stakeholders in Haiti to ensure a Haitian-owned resolution to the crises.
We will have to show the resilience and fortitude of the Haitian people, as we strive to overcome challenges and advance the initiatives to improve the lives of all citizens of our Caribbean Community. That goal – to create a safe, sustainable, prosperous and viable Community for all – has been the guiding principle of our efforts over the last 50 years, and will continue to guide us over the next 50 and beyond.
I thank you.