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Pending Calypso Row at Home and the Continuing CARICOM Stalemate

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As the Carnival season begins to heat up, a dispute between the CDC and the Calypso Association appears set to generate a different kind of heat that we could well do without. The very idea of calypsonians singing one song for the Semi-Finals and Finals is a retrograde one that will signal a further blow to the Calypso art form.{{more}} The calypso has been under threat for some time now from soca which has really been attracting the young people in a significant way. A semi-final and final with only one calypso being sung by each calypsonian will drive away those who have remained committed to the art of calypso. Last weekend papers quoted from a member of the CDC to the effect that the crowds had been declining at both shows, something they apparently attribute to the length of the show. This is certainly questionable, but their answer to this is to limit the number of calypsos. It is like throwing away the baby with the bath water. The semi-finals used to be one of the major shows because patrons took the opportunity to come out to hear those who might have had one good song but not a good second one to take them to the finals. Some years have seen fewer patrons than usual, but this in any year has more to do with the standard of calypsos than the length of the calypsos. Having said that, I must add that I am even prepared to support a semi-final show with one calypso being sung. But certainly not in the finals! Even this has its problems because we have seen times when individuals have gotten into the finals based mainly on the popularity of one calypso, only to see things fall flat at the finals when some calypsonians had no second song to support their popular number. On these occasions I tend to blame the judges.

Traditionally, calypsonians sang a fast tune and a slower number, which tended to be one with social commentary. Based on judging over the years, which has given the edge to social commentary type calypsos, most calypsonians fell in line and did what they felt the judges wanted. In doing this they left the field open for the soca artistes who now dominate the road march. The real test of a calypsonian is to come up with two calypsos of a sufficiently good quality to get the judges nod and to attract the crowds to the Park. There was always excitement not only about the two songs that the finalists would sing but also about the order in which they were to be sung. And this quite often made a difference. The CDC needs to review this decision with the Calypso Association. I hope really that this decision has nothing to do with limiting social commentary, a view that many people seem to hold.

CARICOM’s Continuing Stalemate

Last week I had captioned my column “Have We Lost Our Way?” and had focussed on what I considered the stagnation of CARICOM whose flag ship was supposed to be the Caribbean Single Market and Economy but which appeared to be drifting aimlessly. I noticed this week, and for that matter also last week, numerous articles dealing with the same theme. One of the issues raised by Ricky Singh and other commentators was the puzzling situation of the appointment at the recent meeting in Trinidad of another Task Force looking at the economic way forward. In January, a Task Force led by Dr. Compton Bourne had been set up, and as far as is known, its Report, if it had indeed been presented, was never discussed. This new Task Force, it appears, covers some of the same grounds as the original one and is led by DeLisle Worrell, who was a member of the earlier Task Force.

The Jamaican Observer newspaper in a recent editorial asked the following: “Why is it that CARICOM Heads cannot agree on anything except that they should meet again?” The Observer asked the wrong question and was dead wrong in its assumptions. CARICOM’s problem is not about a failure to agree on anything. Where it has fallen short is on its ability to act on decisions which had been made. There have been all sorts of discussions and recommendations on the issue of Governance within CARICOM. A Technical Working Group on Governance, chaired by Professor Vaughn Lewis had been established. One of the conclusions it arrived at had to do with the importance of ‘citizen participation in the decision making process and in the legitimisation of decisions taken in regard to the nature and pace of the integration process.’ It stated further, “Given the length of time already spent on the consideration of regional governance in the Caribbean it is recommended that a decision on the subject be adopted with a due sense of urgency.”

That report was submitted in October of 2006. Now we are well into 2009. Are they serious? Instead they are stalemated on the issue of immigration and free movement of people within the region. The issue of Immigration which has dominated the media over the past three weeks is further derailing the regional movement. Barbados has started an Amnesty Period which is to last until the end of the year but already there has been talk of non-nationals being rounded up and humiliated. Without the freedom to move and work within the region there can be no meaningful integration. This is what ruined the 1958-1962 Federation. So no wonder things are the way they are and little is being done about the serious impact of the global economic crisis on the region. There is still the traditional talk about commitment to the ideals of the CSME and the regional movement generally, but it is only talk. Throughout the region, people are experiencing hard times, some more so than others. We were told that the only way out was with a regional approach but that regional approach is yet to be formulated. The Trinidad-OECS move toward a political union will most certainly further delay the achievement of the broader single economic space, despite talk to the contrary.

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