PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar, New Chair of CARICOM, Opens Conference of Heads of Government

pmthThe 34th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government is taking place in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, July 3-6, 2013. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who assumed the chairmanship of Caricom on July 1, is expected to set the tone for discussions on matters impacting regional integration in her address this evening at the opening of the Heads of Government Meeting. The four-day meeting gets underway at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s. The anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas coincides with this event, and it will be reenacted as part of the conference activities.

Caricom Secretary General Erwin LaRocque, outgoing chairman Haiti’s President Michel Martelly, newly-elected Prime Minister of Barbados Freundal Stuart, and re-elected Prime Ministers Perry Christie of the Bahamas and Dr Keith Mitchell of Grenada will also deliver addresses at the opening ceremony. With the exception of one Head of Government who will be represented by a deputy, all the other heads of the 15-member states, LaRocque disclosed to the media on Monday, will be present. Three ex-regional heads of states including Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and President of the Dominican Republic Danilo Medina, have also been invited.

LaRocque told the media on Monday that it was probably divine intervention that made possible the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas which coincided with the 34th Regular Meeting of the Heads of Government, being held on home soil.  The signing of the treaty on July 4, 1973 at the Chaguaramas Convention Centre will be reenacted and cultural groups from the four member countries that founded Caricom – TT, Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica – will perform on the occasion. A cultural group from Haiti will also perform. Ambassador Mervyn Assam said the organisers thought it would be a waste to bring the cultural teams from other countries and not allow them to showcase their talent. As such, he said a concert will be staged at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port-of-Spain tomorrow evening. The event will be free, but admission will be on a first- come first-serve basis.

The plenary sessions will address transportation in the region, a proposal for a high-level meeting on persons with disabilities and special needs, the conclusion and formal adoption of protocol recognising the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States in the context of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, and advancing the regional agenda for information and communications technology.  Also on the agenda to be discussed are the “United Nations Post 2015 Development Agenda: Caricom’s Perspectives and Priorities.”

When the heads meet in caucus at a retreat tomorrow in Pointe-à-Pierre they will address the “The Economic Situation Facing the Region: A Framework for Regional Growth and Development,” the “Reform Process in Caricom: State in Progress,” the issue of membership and associate membership of Caricom. To be discussed also among other matters, is the issue of “Reparation for Native Genocide and Slavery” as requested by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

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