Columns

Caricom unity – Illusion or reality?

BY SUNIL RAMDEEN

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Print this page Email A Friend!


For decades there have been attempts by various nations to form a unified approach to how they conduct their affairs. From the Allied Forces in the world wars to the United Nations and NATO, to the European Union and now Caricom.

However, there is a glaring truth that always emerges — sovereignty wins out in the end. In other words, we always seem to put the interests of our own before any so-called 'greater cause'.

We are seeing it play out today in the United Kingdom with Brexit, which has divided a nation over efforts to exit the much touted European Union, a body that emerged from a series of off and on partnerships between European nations which was constitutionally formalised under the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009.

Barely 10 years later and the people of the United Kingdom have indicated that they want out, they don't want to share, they don't want people to freely cross their borders and they don't want to be told what to do.

Closer to home we see the already fragile bonds of Caricom facing its latest test. This after US President Donald Trump hand-selected a group of Caribbean leaders to meet with him on US soil, supposedly because they were sympathetic to the US position on Venezuela, but which involved more in-depth bilateral talks that saw President Trump promise further co-operation with these leaders.

Those who made the guest list included Jamaica's Andrew Holness, Saint Lucia's Allen Chastanet, the Dominican Republic's Danilo Medina, the Bahamas' Hubert Minnis, and Haiti's Jovenel Moise.

It led to an outcry from the leaders who were not invited, ranging from Trinidad and Tobago's Dr Keith Rowley's philosophical approach that his country has “never stood taller, and has never stood prouder”, to Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne's more aggressive assertions that he felt “embarrassed for those weak-minded leaders who allowed themselves to be used…”

So the big question is, has President Trump somehow interfered with Caricom because he reached out to those who were of a like mind regarding a very serious diplomatic development in our region? Whom would he reach out to then, if not those to whom he could relate?

Many observers have knocked the five gentlemen, in particular Holness and Chastanet, saying they disrespected Caricom in the first instance, and (in the case of Chastanet) the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States in the second, and that only designated persons can speak on behalf of Caricom. But the question I ask is this: who from the group really went there to speak on Caricom anyway? The leaders have said most of the talk centred on trade and investments, with the US committing to sending a representative from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to visit each of those nations.

So is the president somehow rewarding these leaders for their positions? That's a bit insulting to the five gentlemen isn't it? That's implying that they cannot hold strong opinions of their own.

In fact, amidst all the cross-talk, Saint Lucia's Chastanet made a very poignant point. He said very clearly: “At the end of the day I was elected by Saint Lucians to represent Saint Lucia.”

Nuff said!

I don't know that there is any threat to Caricom, because truth be told what is Caricom in the first place? For three decades the body has struggled to implement even the simplest of measures, one of the most telling being the free movement of people, but even that has its problems.

I was speaking with an Antiguan citizen recently who said that even though she had her Caricom Skills Certificate she was told in no uncertain terms by an immigration official in Trinidad that “that don't man nothing here”. So what exactly are we arguing over?

We need to accept that we remain sovereign nations and independent people in a grouping that just has not delivered, and that has not inspired and motivated unity the way people like Sir Shridath Ramphal envisioned when he presented his landmark work on unifying Caricom called “Time for Action”. I daresay the time for action has long gone, and as we muddle over what Caricom should be, we cannot impose restrictions on leaders who, at the end of the day, are elected to represent their own people.

Britain has shown that this is not just a Caribbean thing; it is a real issue.

The fact is that globalisation has been suffering over the past few years while 'internalisation' has been growing, and no one has been a greater champion of looking inward than Donald Trump. So the gentleman knows a thing or two about treating with individual leaders.

If Caricom is indeed worth the paper the Treaty of Chaguaramas is written on, then it should see this as an opportunity to unite, call a meeting of Heads and allow those who went to the meeting with the US president to advise on how all 15 states can capitalise on their improved relationship with the United States.

In other words, can unity 'trump' individualism this time, or will we continue to waste time pandering to our illusions?

– Sunil Ramdeen is a communications consultant


Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at http://bit.ly/epaperlive


ADVERTISEMENT




POST A COMMENT

HOUSE RULES

1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy



comments powered by Disqus
ADVERTISEMENT

Poll

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
ADVERTISEMENT