Prime Minister defends delay in signing CARICOM Protocol on Contingent Rights

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley

Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Thursday defended his country’s delay in signing on to the protocol that gives rights to the spouses and children of people who move within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) under the free movement of skills regime.

Jamaica, Barbados, St Lucia, Grenada, Suriname, and Haiti signed CARICOM Protocol on Contingent Rights on the final day of the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM in Jamaica last week.

The protocol speaks to, among other things, the right of spouses and dependants to access healthcare and education; and leave and re-enter the host country; and the right of the spouse to work in the host country without a work permit.

Prime Minister Rowley said at a post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday that Trinidad and Tobago is treading cautiously and will sign on to the protocol once it is sure there are no legal issues in the way.

“If an individual accesses Trinidad and Tobago from another territory, that person might have a family and it is the position that the contingent rights of such persons should be acknowledged…without hindrance. The spouse should be able to work and children should be allowed to access school and healthcare. This decision was taken since 2014 but it has not been operationalized by the territories,” he said.

“Once the Attorney General tells me that there is no issue standing in the way of the 2014 decision, Trinidad and Tobago will sign that protocol at the first opportunity and we will then be bound and operationalizing the contingent rights situation.”

Rowley also hit back at comments on social media who criticized Trinidad and Tobago’s position not to immediately sign the protocol.

“I was disappointed to see an attack made…by a person who was completely without any information on this matter. But as is common in Trinidad and Tobago you start by saying you don’t know then you get on your high horse and prance,” he said.

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