Sunday, 8 July 2007

Thou Shalt Not Be A Hypocrite!

Now, read this editorial from the state-owned Guyana Chronicle. Good going, President Jagdeo (though you need to keep your word on the Stabroek News state advertising boycott). As for you, Prime Minister, Baldwin Spencer, your underwear is showing.

GUYANA, HOME of the CARICOM Secretariat, is clearly on the offensive to give more practical meaning to what is a most vital people-oriented issue---free intra-regional movement of nationals of our Community.

Having made quite an impressive impact at last week's 28th CARICOM Summit in Barbados with his criticisms against the continuing hassle and prejudices being experienced by Guyanese at some airports, such as Barbados and, to a lesser extent, Trinidad and Tobago, President Bharrat Jagdeo played an influential role in the significant decision for Community nationals to stay as long as six months on arrival in any member state.

While discussions were taking place over the recent expulsion of two regional journalists from Antigua and Barbuda, one of them armed with a valid CARICOM Skilled Nationals Certificate, and on wider concerns for expansion of categories for such certificates and more effective monitoring, President Jagdeo went public with his call for removal of existing discretionary powers of immigration officers in determining length of stay for nationals with valid passports.

Subsequently, on the final day of the Heads of Government Conference, the Communique released by the Community Secretariat was to announce the "agreement" reached--except for a "reservation" entered by Antigua and Barbuda--for all Community nationals to be "allowed an automatic six-month stay on arrival in another CARICOM member state".

This should prove quite a relief to Community nationals, and particularly Guyanese, Vincentians and Jamaicans, who have had harrowing experiences at some ports of entry for holiday or business, when confronted by unfriendly and even hostile immigration officers.

Anxious as he evidently is for this new six-month stay policy to be implemented, President Jagdeo has lost no time in announcing that Guyana would take the lead by making a reality of this significant development in intra-regional movement of nationals effective from this week.

The intention is for reciprocity for Guyanese by other CARICOM partners, consistent with the collective decision taken at the summit.

In the absence of details on the framework arrangement for enforcement of the six-month stay agreement, it is assumed that the Guyana Government would have in place the necessary regulations empowering immigration officers to automatically stamp "six months" in the passport of an arriving national from another CARICOM state.

The example given for this new policy is that of the United States of America where a common stamp is used to indicate a six-month stay, even if those arriving would be gone, in a matter of days, or weeks, back to their respective countries.

However, those on a "watch list" for security purposes, or who violate the laws of a CARICOM state by any criminal act, should not expect to benefit from this new umbrella arrangement for an automatic six-month stay on arrival.

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