Secretary General of the Caribbean Community Ambassador Irwin LaRocque said the Region has done fairly well in containing COVID-19. He was speaking during the virtual Handing-over Ceremony of Chairmanship of the Conference of the Heads of Government of CARCIOM on Friday, 3 July.
Ambassador LaRocque outlined that protocols had been developed by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) and the CARICOM Secretariat, both for managing the virus and re-opening CARICOM’s borders. He said they had served as guidance to Member States in their efforts to overcome the challenges.
The Secretary-General noted that the last four months had been one of the most exceptional periods for the Community with the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic fall-out and the electoral crisis in Guyana. He added that during a time when most Member States continued to be denied access to concessional financing, countries continued to blacklist some Member States, which had exacerbated an already difficult situation.
“The Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, has been in the Chair during this exceptional time. Prime Minister, you have provided astute and decisive leadership to our Community, even as you grappled with the severe problems faced by your own country,” Secretary General LaRocque said.
Turning to some of the work that was done during the Barbados Prime Minister’s tenure, Ambassador LaRocque revealed that the Conference held five formal meetings and several informal consultations, as well as meetings of the Bureau of Heads of Government.
He noted also, that Ministerial Councils met to deal with matters of Health, Food Security, Education, Information and Communications Technology, Regional Security, Trade and External Relations, all convened within the context of managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, he said, the leadership had to address the on-going electoral crisis in Guyana, while seeking to “maintain the reputation of the Community as a bastion of democracy”.
“Five Prime Ministers, one third of the leadership of the Caribbean Community, visited Guyana, by invitation, to hold talks with the political leadership. CARICOM’s involvement in the situation in Guyana has always been by invitation,” Ambassador LaRocque said.
The Secretary General also used his remarks to introduce the new Chair of the Conference, Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Ambassador LaRocque said Prime Minister Gonsalves was admirably suited to lead the Community at a time that would continue to be exceptionally difficult.
In closing, he acknowledged the work of the staff of Regional Institutions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which, according to him, had enabled the Region to save lives and keep the infections at a manageable level.
“CARPHA, IMPACS, CDEMA, RSS, CDB, UWI, CARDI, the OECS Commission, the staff of the CARICOM Secretariat and many others have been working closely together in this effort.
Our Ministries of Health and Chief Medical Officers have also provided yeoman service,” Secretary General LaRocque concluded.