Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Garth Rattray | What about Jexit?

Published:Monday | June 27, 2016 | 6:00 AM

The traditionalist in me thought that Brexit would fail and that Britain would remain in the European Union (EU). My 'flabba' was 'gasted' when I saw the results of the referendum. It's a really gutsy move to go it alone, especially in these tumultuous times. The rest of the EU is quite miffed at the Brits; they seem to feel slighted and abandoned. I don't blame them.

The uncoupling is going to take years and will certainly be far more painful than yanking a sticky plaster off a hairy area down below. EU grants and programmes aside, it shouldn't affect our citizens working in Britain and those that collect pensions from there either. The sterling fell 5-10 per cent, but it should rebound in time. I wonder if British citizens will need a Schengen visa to go to Europe. And I also wonder if they'll need one to traverse the Chunnel. We are certainly living in interesting times.

So, my mind wandered to our Caribbean Community (CARICOM). All the troubles that we are having with Trinidad is uncomfortable. I looked at my 'CARICOM' passport and saw this, "The Minister of Foreign Affairs requests and requires in the name of the Government of Jamaica all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary". It made we wonder how it was that several of us are treated like criminals when we land in Trinidad.

A very good friend of mine, an extremely decent lady who goes there from time to time for months on end on legitimate (bank) business, told me how scrutinised she feels at the airport. Once, they singled her out and intimidated her by telling her to warn her Jamaican friends not to bring drugs into Trinidad. She was going to report the matter to the higher-ups, but thought of possible retaliation and didn't bother.

Then I looked at the rear of the passport and saw this, "The possession of a Jamaican passport does not exempt the holder from compliance with the immigration regulations in force in any country or from the necessity of obtaining a visa or other entry permit that may be required".

Perhaps the immigration officers in T&T and Barbados are exercising their right to suspect, detain and deport any traveller. But that is no way to treat visitors, especially those carrying CARICOM passports.

 

UNFORGIVEN

 

I feel that things went sour when we held that fateful referendum four years into the formation of the West Indies Federation back in 1962, and got worse because of our high crime rate. We contributed the most to the Federation but were under-represented. We wanted to grow as much as we could. I believe that some other territories saw this as a supremely selfish act and never forgave us.

Our politicians failed to ensure that we kept spending in check and production high and diversified. There was way too much concentration on acquiring political 'power'. Necessary steps were not taken because they feared losing popularity. Now, many of the smaller territories are doing much better than we are today.

True, manufacturers are complaining about unfair marketing, levies against our products and dumping cheap goods here that undercut our local stuff. But, although CARICOM member states are still in the process of putting in place systems to facilitate intraregional movement of skilled personnel, a survey by Steven Mc Andrew concluded that "4,000 persons had moved under this regime in the period 1997 June 2010". However, perhaps more than 85,000 work permits were issued to skilled workers from outside CARICOM.

So, I agree with Mr K.D. Knight that we need diplomacy to iron out our problems with free travel. We also need regional governmental meetings to solve trade disputes and more attractive employment benefits to keep CARICOM nationals within the region to reduce the need for external recruiting.

I don't think that there will be a Jexit referendum because our problems are solvable and we need regional unity now more than ever before to act as one force on the international stage.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.