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48 years ago, 4th July 1973, Prime Ministers Forbes Burnham (Guyana), Eric Williams (Trinidad and Tobago), Michael Manley (Jamaica) and Errol Barrow (Barbados) signed the Treaty of Chaguaramas, in Trinidad, which established the current integration process known as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). This treaty laid the ground for a community for all.
48 years after, the governments of the region and peoples must ask how much work has been done to deepen and protect the integration process and the welfare of those residing within. There exists concern that insularity or convenient self-serving calls for integration is stalking the minds of Leaders and retarding the progress.
The Community had become immobilised by egos and is being hindered from propelling the vision of oneness in a global economy that will leave small nations such as ours behind if we fail to operate as one. The region needs leaders that could appreciate internal nationalism is just as equal as regional integration in the peoples’ pursuit of economic, political, cultural and social self-determination. It is a folly to see the two operating independent of each other.
The region cannot expect to survive in a world where multinationals are becoming more exploitative and natural resources rich small nations as ours could be abused. In 2017 then Secretary-General Ambassador Irvin La Roque, made the charge that CARICOM is “not delivering results as fast as [they] should in a number of areas.” He was making reference to the challenges facing the institution in several areas and pointing to the necessity getting things done in the interest of the region’s security and people’s development.
Several leaders, past and present, have expressed similar concerns. One of the most poignant being the counsel of former Jamaica Prime Minister P.J Patterson who said “West Indians understand – WE ARE SPINNING TOP IN MUD! They do not wonder why we are getting nowhere.” Regional Heads of Government must do some introspection.
Though it is recognised and appreciated each new administration may have different approaches to manage the affairs of their respective country, they ought not to lose sight of the focus that CARICOM vision is regional, and agreements are signed on behalf of the country. It matters not which political party was in government at the time or signed that agreement but that having been signed they are considered an agreement by the member state and should be enforced.
The long on talk and short on action are real concerns of the Caribbean people and are contributing to the mixed reaction by the people to CARICOM’s relevance. According to the Treaty of Chaguaramas, the responsibility is that of the Secretariat for developing protocols, agreements, laws and charters for the Region. It is the responsibility of each government for the implementation of these. Governments are not pulling their weight sufficient to get the integration work done. They are spinning in mud and masquerading.
If the situation were not serious it would have been laughable to listen to the waxing presentations as CARICOM sessions of what ought to be done by the very leaders who are supposed to get it done. Persons are often left to wonder whether the Heads do not understand their responsibility and that of the Secretariat, deliberately blurring the line, or has no interest in advancing the integration process.
Suffice to stay the Heads of Government cannot continue to function with such level of inaction and lackluster. The world is moving at a rapid pace and political independence depends on economic, cultural, and social independence. The right to self-determination, irrespective of size, should not be circumscribed by multinationals or nation states allowed themselves to be used as pawns in the global power struggle. Worldwide comity remains the best pursuit for the independence of the region, and the rights and freedoms of the peoples to pursue their dreams and aspirations within the region.