Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
Lawyers representing the Jamaican Government yesterday served notice at the Shanique Myrie trial that they will present evidence to show that Barbados has engaged in a pattern of discrimination against Jamaicans visiting that Caribbean territory.
The evidence, according to lead attorney for the Jamaican Government Kathy-Ann Brown, includes statistics compiled over the last five years and first-hand accounts from several persons who claimed they were mistreated by immigration officers upon arrival in Barbados.
"This evidence presents a pattern of behaviour in relation to persons with a particular group characteristic - that being their Jamaican nationality," Brown sought to explain in her opening statement before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), sitting at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston yesterday.
"The statistical evidence submitted by both Jamaica and Barbados demonstrates a persistent and relatively constant disparity over a period of five years from 2007, in the denial of entry of Jamaican nationals compared with nationals of almost all other CARICOM countries," Brown added.
But lawyers for the Barbados government have signalled that they will counter with their own data showing that less than two per cent of all Jamaicans who visited that country in the last five years were denied entry.
The Jamaican Government joined Myrie's legal action last year, arguing that it has a "specific legal interest" in ensuring respect for the rights and benefits of its citizens as provided in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Myrie is claiming that Barbadian immigration officers subjected her to two painful and embarrassing cavity searches and kept her in a dark, filthy cell for several hours before she was deported to Jamaica in March 2011.
Under cross-examination yesterday by Queen's Counsel Roger Forde, the lead attorney for the Barbadian government, Myrie insisted that she was held in filthy conditions and that the searches did occur.
She is not only seeking damages and an apology from the government of Barbados, but is asking the CCJ to interpret and apply the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and determine how CARICOM nationals should travel.
Brown insisted that bilaterally and regionally, Jamaica and other CARICOM countries must confront any unacceptable intra-regional attitude and action that could undermine "the very fabric of the Community".
"It is not an overstatement to say that the entire CARICOM project could be injured by a refusal to deal with these matters with the frankness and honesty worthy of a Community where mutual trust and respect are essential," she argued.
She said the statistics on the number of Jamaicans denied entry to Barbados as against other nationals is of important probative value in the case.
"Where statistical data demonstrates a pattern of differential and prejudicial treatment of a category of persons, here, Jamaican nationals, this places a significant burden of proof on a defendant to provide an explanation," she said.
"If there is no, or satisfactory, explanation, it is legitimate to infer that the less favourable treatment was on grounds of nationality," Brown argued.