Mitchell Reports on CARICOM in Haiti
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell said, on February 22, 2013, that the Prime Minister’s participation in the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting, held earlier that week, signalled his “re-emergence” in the Caribbean theatre.
“This was the first opportunity he had to attend a Heads of Government meeting since the General Elections last year,” Minister Mitchell said.
However, Minister Mitchell said that the main issue discussed at the meeting was the question of security and the lead prime minister in that was Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
“The Council of National Security Ministers is actually chaired by The Bahamas; so there was a presentation made by the Minister of National Security for The Bahamas (Dr. Bernard Nottage) urging certain steps for the development of national security interests in the region,” Minister Mitchell noted.
Minister Mitchell added that there was a discussion with United States Attorney General Eric Holder and Prime Minister Christie made the point that the United States has to do more, in terms of putting in resources, into the countries of the region because the security of the region is, in fact, the United States’ security.
“And much of the insecurity in our countries is actually driven by issues in the United States,” Minister Mitchell said.
He pointed to the problems of illegal drugs, weapons and immigration.
“The United States has an obligation to pay and to put the resources in to help these countries resist the criminal activities in our own countries, as a result of what is going on in that country,” Minister Mitchell said.
He added that there was a denunciation of the export of criminals from the United States and back to the Caribbean countries, a “huge” issue in the region.
Another issue discussed was the state of affairs in the Turks and Caicos Islands, with the Premier of the islands making a comprehensive presentation on where things now stand with the British and their disagreements on taxation, representation and the way that the British are conducting their affairs with the people there.
“We intervened in support of the Turks and Caicos Islands because we disagreed with the imposition of direct rule,” Minister Mitchell said.
It was indicated in CARICOM, Minister Mitchell pointed out, that The Bahamas would keep the body appraised of what is happening in Turks and Caicos, as well as all matters dealing with the islands would be kept under review.
Minister Mitchell said that Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder has become, in his opinion, “a bit of a regional expert” on the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and similar matters.
“There was a very engaging and lively discussion by Caribbean Prime Ministers with him on the question of what that (FATCA) actually means,” Minister Mitchell said.
Minister Mitchell added that he and Minister Nottage paid a short visit on former President of Haiti Jean Bertrand-Aristide, who is now in private life and runs a medical school.
“He says that he is very happy to be back home, their children are happy to be there and, basically, he just lives a quiet life and says that politics is behind him,” Minister Mitchell said.
Minister Mitchell added that CARICOM is important for the region, as it provides a stage for discussion and action for issues pertinent to the region. He added that, at that level, it was important for Prime Minister Perry Christie to be there for such conversations.
“It is important when the conversation takes place for the head of the government to be there because it makes a big difference how people interact with a country when the head of the country is there,” Minister Mitchell said.
“There is a certain amount a foreign minister can do; but it is important for the head of government to be there.”
By Eric Rose
Bahamas Information Services