Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter
At least four regional leaders will be absent from Montego Bay, St James, on Sunday when the 31st meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) gets under way.
Fifteen heads of government were expected for the annual powwow, but up to late yesterday CARICOM officials could only confirm plans for the arrival of six.
However, the CARICOM officials remained confident that five other leaders would be confirmed today.
Among those definitely not travelling to Jamaica are the ailing David Thompson of Barbados and outgoing president of Suriname, Ronald Venetiaan, whose party was defeated in the country's recent general election.
The chief minister of Monsterrat, Reuben Meade, will also be absent as will the prime minister of The Bahamas, Hubert Ingraham.
The delegation from The Bahamas will be led by the country's deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, Brent Symonette.
Leaders on board
Among those leaders who have confirmed their attendance are prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer; and Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Guyanese Prime Minister Bharrat Jagdeo, Haitian President René Préval, and the region's fourth female head of government, Kamla Persad-Bissessar of Trinidad and Tobago, will also make the trip.
Jagdeo, who also bears responsibility for the agriculture portfolio, will apprise his colleagues of developments that have taken place in that area since last year's meeting in Georgetown, Guyana.
CARICOM heads of government at that summit had issued a Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security, reaffirming the importance of agriculture for food and nutrition security and for the development of the regional bloc's economies.
They had also reaffirmed their commitment to allocate resources to remove or alleviate the constraints to the further development of the agriculture sector.
The regional leaders will be joined in Montego Bay by secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, and secretary general of the Organisation of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza.
Managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Commonwealth deputy secretary general, Ambassador Ransford Smith, will also be in attendance.
Issues for discussion
The leaders of the multinational organisations will engage CARICOM leaders in discussions on a range of issues including the international financial system and its impact on regional states, the Millennium Development Goals, climate change, and crime and security.
The regional leaders are scheduled to address issues such as the reconstruction of Haiti, the global economic and financial crisis, climate change, and the on-again-off-again CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding will assume the chairmanship of CARICOM at the heads of government conference which was initially slated to be hosted by quake-devastated Haiti.