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Sir Shridath: Still labouring in the vineyard of regional integration

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SIR Shridath ‘Sonny’ Ramphal does not know how to stop giving to this Caribbean region that he loves so much and to which he has devoted his life.

Last week, he launched his latest book, Caribbean Challenges: Sir Shridath Ramphal’s Collected Counsel, in which he shares his insights about the potential, prospects and problems of regional integration. It’s a work that will warm the hearts of all regionalists.

Sir Shridath is the indefatigable regionalist. His lifelong commitment to regionalism in the Caribbean has manifested consistently in word and deed. We salute him because — and we know this is already obvious — we at this newspaper are ardent believers in the potential of Caribbean regionalism and because his dedication to that ideal has been the leitmotif of a very long and illustrious career.

While he was the longest serving secretary general of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Sir Shridath was instrumental in focusing attention on problems which, while not exclusive to the Caribbean, were of vital importance. The studies produced by the Commonwealth Secretariat at his behest are of enduring relevance and helped to advance these issues. Those studies on small states and their vulnerability and developmental problems and options remain a valuable reference and template for action.

Sir Shridath chaired the West Indian Commission which produced the ‘bible’ of Caribbean regionalism. Unfortunately, the political leadership of the region either has not read the document or they have not understood it, hence the majority of recommendations have not been implemented. He matched his words with deeds, notably as chief trade negotiator and head of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves at the launch of Sir Shridath’s book described him as “labouring tirelessly in the vineyard of regional integration”.

In addition to his practical involvement, Sir Shridath is a renowned intellectual and was chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and Warwick University. Apart from working to achieve regionalism, he has contributed to the envisioning of Caribbean regionalism.

His unparalleled political acumen has once again allowed him to be in the right place at the right time. His book of musings is impeccably timed as its publication coincides with 50 years since the collapse of the West Indies Federation and the Independence of Jamaica and of Trinidad and Tobago, and 20 years since the West Indian Commission’s Report.

The book also appears at a time when Caricom is a centrifugal endogenous political force and when centripetal exogenous economic developments have combined to generate a crisis which threatens the very existence of Caribbean regionalism.

Only time will tell whether the new book is hortatory vision or maudlin requiem for Caribbean regionalism by its most ardent advocate. We think it’s the former.




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