What became of the Golding Report on Caricom?

Sunday, July 09, 2017

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Not unlike most summits, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Heads of Government meetings are notorious for being more talk than action. The more countries, the more talk, and the fewer the decisions and actual outcomes.

All summit meetings issue communiques claiming that consensus and decisions are taken on important issues and that decisions are going to become purposive actions. Usually, communiques are negotiated by technocrats and diplomats, in a three-to six-month process, and the draft communique is fine-tuned at the summit meeting.

Caricom communiques tend to be short and concocted, during the three- day meeting, by experts at drafting. The art is to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. This is a necessary art form because it is absolutely necessary to pretend that there was progress because of the glacial pace of Caricom integration and the frequency of unresolved disagreements.

In this regard, we had come to expect that the report on the work of the Bruce Golding-chaired commission on reforming Caricom would have been tabled for deliberation at this just-concluded Heads of Government Meeting in Grand Anse, Grenada. But this was not the case.

We were also of the impression that the Golding recommendations would have formed the brief for Jamaica to articulate the reform of Caricom, after all the controversy over whether Jamaica is benefiting or not from the regional grouping. The next opportunity comes in January 2018.

Hopefully, Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith will explain to the nation what transpired and what, if any, agreement was made to have the Heads discuss the report.

It will be important to know, for example, if the non-tabling of the report was just an attempt to avoid another agenda item that would lead to more divisions. We are aware that Caricom governments and their prime ministers or presidents disagree on many issues, especially on foreign policy, despite the mandate to cooperate which is explicit in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas governing community relations.

It is apparent also that Jamaica changed its position on Venezuela to allow Caricom to reach consensus. Recall that Jamaica was at odds with the other regional countries at the Organization of American States (OAS) and seemed to have been in line with the position of the United States on the turmoil in Venezuela.

Realistically, the OAS meeting is just the occasion and the arena for which Venezuela for years poured millions into the Caribbean through the PetroCaribe. Jamaica's change of position to join in the consensus could be seen as sensible. But here again clarity is needed from our Government on what truly is going on.

Furthermore, given those two issues, the Golding report and the Venezuela vote, one needs to ask whether Jamaica is now following, rather than leading Caricom in external affairs — for which it was appointed by the Heads of Government based on Jamaica's proven record of leadership and courage in international affairs.

One tends to be nostalgic about the leadership provided to Caricom by first Prime Minister P J Patterson, and then Prime Minister Golding.

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