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Turks and Caicos premier to address CARICOM heads of government meeting
Published on February 14, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Caribbean News Now contributor

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands -- The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) will next week make its official return to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) at the heads of government meeting in Haiti, after a three-year absence.

Premier Rufus Ewing and minister of border control and labour, Ricardo Don-Hue Gardiner, are scheduled to attend the 24th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM between February 18 and 19, 2013. The premier will also address the gathering.

Ironically, the trip to Haiti comes at a time when Gardiner and, to a lesser extent, Ewing, have been trying to defuse the fallout from comments made about illegal Haitian migrants in the TCI.

Earlier this year, Gardiner said in the House of Assembly and on national radio that local police and private citizens must hunt down and capture all and every illegal Haitian migrant and must do everything in their power to make the Haitians’ lives “unbearable”.

The statement followed similar remarks by Gardiner and Ewing on local television, when they spoke out against the continuing attempts by Haitians to enter and live in the TCI illegally.

According to opposition members of parliament, Gardiner was singling out persons of Haitian nationality; however, Gardiner later attempted to clear this up, saying he also supported the “hunting down and deportation” of all illegals but that his efforts against Haitians became a priority when he took over as minister of immigration.

While at the meeting, Ewing will attend meetings with other regional leaders; CARICOM’s secretary-general Irvine LaRocque and current CARICOM chairman and president of Haiti Michel Joseph Martelly. The premier will also seek to reinstate TCI’s associate membership to the regional body.

The TCI is one of five associate member states of CARICOM. The Turks and Caicos became an associate member of the regional body in 1991, but membership was suspended after Britain assumed direct rule in 2009 and suspended the constitution. Associate membership allows the TCI to participate and benefit from projects aimed at improving the environment, education, culture and disaster management.

Ewing noted: "I am indeed excited to be attending this meeting as it offers many opportunities for the Turks and Caicos to collaborate with other Caribbean leaders in advancing my government's mandate and our country's prosperity. This meeting also offers us the opportunity to re-establish ourselves within CARICOM and to address the body of Caribbean leaders to garner support for our challenges ahead."

TCI returns to CARICOM at a time when one of its newest members Haiti hosts the conference. Haiti assumed the chair of the Community, also for the first time, on January 1, 2013.
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