Editorial: Lesson to private sector from Shanique Myrie
Jamaica's leading business and trade organisations could do far worse than co-opting Shanique Myrie to their councils, where they would benefit from her insights and advice on how to insist on, and obtain, one's rights in rules-based arrangements like the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
For anyone unaware, Ms Myrie is the young woman who, five years ago, was denied entry into Barbados and accused that country's immigration authorities of unfair and humiliating treatment, including invasive cavity searches. She took her case to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), operating in its original jurisdiction as ultimate arbiter of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, under which CARICOM operates, and won.
What she in fact accomplished was to have the court declare and clarify a fundamental point of Community law: the minimum rights and expectations of CARICOM citizens when they travel within the Community. These include a general expectation, except in very limited circumstances, that they will be afforded entry, and that if it is denied, they will be treated with decency and decorum, and afforded access to legal representation, consular services and/or members of their family.
We invoke Ms Myrie because Jamaicans of certain perceived socio-economic strata still complain of being harassed by border-control authorities, especially in Trinidad and Tobago, when they travel within CARICOM, and also against the background of the emotive response of some private-sector leaders to the latest accusations.
There have been calls for a boycott of Trinidad and Tobago exports to Jamaica by William Mahfood, the president of the Private Sector Organisation, which has encouraged other leaders in commerce and industry to urge this country's Government to institute all manner of ill-defined sanctions against Port-of-Spain.
This solidarity with those who have complained of hassle in Trinidad and Tobago is good for Jamaica and CARICOM and is encouraged. It is also part of a larger grievance that Jamaican businesses have for years had with the Eastern Caribbean state, which they accuse of not playing fairly by CARICOM's single-market rules.
The Trinidadians have been accused of unfairly providing energy subsidies to their manufacturers, cheating on CARICOM's rules-of-origin regime, and erecting non-tariff barriers to Jamaica exporters.
Perhaps all of this is true. But mere assertion does not make it so. Nor does conflating CARICOM's limited free movement-of-labour framework and that allowing for the almost unrestricted movement of capital and right of establishment within the Community.
Indeed, while, at Article 45 of the Revised Treaty, the "free movement of their nationals within the Community" is a goal of CARICOM, the right to seek employment without work permits - but with specific home-country certification - is, up to now, restricted to university graduates, media workers, sportspersons, artistes, and musicians. Others have a right of travel that ought not to be arbitrarily denied, which, if it is, there is legal recourse.
There is, too, a wide range of channels through which businesses that believe that they have been hard done in CARICOM can seek redress. They can make cases, via their government, to CARICOM bodies which, if proved, the cheaters can be punished. The ultimate forum Ms Myrie used was the CCJ.
Utilising these mechanisms, however, demands the effort of making substantive and provable claims, which starts with documenting breaches rather than mere declarations. The effort, we believe, would be worth it.