Premier signs Caricom deal

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica - Bermuda became the newest associate member of the Caribbean Community yesterday in a move criticised by some who ask what the prosperous mid-Atlantic island has to gain from a union with countries dogged by poverty, drug-related crimes and slothful economies.

  • Prime Minister of Jamaica P.J. Patterson, left, shake hands with his counterpart of Bermuda Jennifer Smith, while the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community Edwin Carrington looks on, during the signing agreement of Associate Membership of Bermuda as a new member of the community, during the the 24th Regular Meeting of the Caribbean Community Heads of Government in Montego Bay, Jamaica yesterday.

    Prime Minister of Jamaica P.J. Patterson, left, shake hands with his counterpart of Bermuda Jennifer Smith, while the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community Edwin Carrington looks on, during the signing agreement of Associate Membership of Bermuda as a new member of the community, during the the 24th Regular Meeting of the Caribbean Community Heads of Government in Montego Bay, Jamaica yesterday.


MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica - Bermuda became the newest associate member of the Caribbean Community yesterday in a move criticised by some who ask what the prosperous mid-Atlantic island has to gain from a union with countries dogged by poverty, drug-related crimes and slothful economies.

Premier Jennifer Smith signed the agreement at a brief ceremony with Jamaican leader and current community chairman P.J. Patterson at the opening of the 15-nation organisation's annual summit in Jamaica's northern resort of Montego Bay. Associate membership does not give Bermuda voting rights but makes it eligible to receive funding for social programmes such as HIV prevention and disaster preparedness.

It also could benefit from regional programmes on waste management, research and development in areas such as environmental conservation, water pollution, disaster management.

Bermuda, a British territory, shares regional concerns about housing, health, crime, education, security, the environment, drug prevention, industrial relations and maritime issues, Bermuda's Government says.

"Bermuda is looking for greater benefits and protections through an alliance with Caricom," Health Minister Nelson Bascome told a public meeting in Bermuda recently, attempting to dispel people's fears.

Bascome emphasised that Bermuda would have no part of community plans to have open borders for workers, for example. Some islanders fear Bermuda would become a targeted destination for the region's poor in search of a better economic life.

Bascome, chairman of a government committee on its relationship with the Caribbean Community, said the potential benefits of the new status "would help Bermuda develop strategies consistent with Bermuda's size and development." He said Bermuda help lead the region, and thus attract its business, in Internet commerce and the telecommunications industry.

Those arguments have not quieted criticism among some of Bermuda's 60,000 residents.

"I don't think it's a very good idea associating with those people and their problems," barman Sonny Sullivan said in Hamilton yesterday. "We are not even in the Caribbean," he said.

"They (Caribbean nations) have social unrest, and we have a better economy than them. And people don't get killed when they vote."

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