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The average Guyanese and probably the average West Indian if asked about CARICOM may respond despondently. Is that a function of poor communication or is it a function of a dismal performance by CARICOM or is it overrated expectations or is it alienation, what`s the reason for such a response?
The reality of the state, importance and efficacy of CARICOM demonstratively takes centre stage on occasions like that facing the Community at this time with the need for a quick and robust response in the face of the eruption of Soufriere in St. Vincent and its devastating impact on the Island and the residents in the Red Zone, in particular.
One of the realisations in such a circumstance is that the affected population is as much Vincentian as it is West Indian. Many of the affected are first or even latter generations of natives from other CARICOM states. This suggests that CARICOM may be at work bottom up with the people themselves realising the goals of CARICOM in the manner in which they intermingle and coexist in common spaces. The Late Errol Barrow, one of the founders of CARICOM, on the occasion of his last presentation, in Guyana, to a CARICOM forum, made the observation that whilst the governments and officials may be haggling over CARICOM, at the level of the people they were very much engaged in a manner reflective of true integration, albeit their articulation may not acknowledge that reality. It may however be argued that CARICOM`s response, state by state and CARICOM as a whole may well reflect that reality. The response is of brothers and sisters to brothers and sisters. A family of states bolstered by families across states. But even these occurrences may not be articulated as a CARICOM affair by the average citizen. It is therefore no wonder that the successes of CARICOM are taken for granted. Isn`t the existence of the Caribbean Examination Council an outcome of CARICOM`s effort. Whether it affects us negatively, as some might argue, or positively, it is evidence of a CARICOM policy, a derivative institution and consequential services. The same can be said about CANTA, the body responsible for the harmonisation and quality assurance of Technical and Vocational Education in CARICOM. This state of affairs is indicative of a conundrum. This requires some thoughts as to its causation and possible solution.
If the people are naturally integrated and there are institutions that further enhance their integration yet they are despondent in articulating their reality this can only be attributed to a priori disposition, an inhibiting psychological state induced by a lack of confidence in those who are suppose to give leadership in response to the people`s aspirations. Moments like the Soufriere eruption, which naturally invoke the collective spirit of the people and institutional responses, should be used to awaken the people to their reality and the potential that resides in the institutions that are intended to enhance their well-being. Much of this may be achieved if due recognition is given to their natural state of integration and if future endeavours feed off of their natural state and/or are initiated from the bottom up rather that foisted from the top down. The crocks of the matter is not only what is done but how it is done. Also important is the recognition of those who really and truly make things happen.