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Decisive steps needed now to rescue CARICOM

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Fri Apr 19, 2013

Editor: The comment made by Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart that “the regional integration movement is alive and well” has raised eyebrows and one wonders why a head of government could make such a statement, when instead of CARICOM moving forward, it is either stalled or moving backwards.{{more}}

Several commentators and heads of government have voiced their concern about the pace of CARICOM. St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who for decades has been involved in regional integration, has recently expressed grave concern about CARICOM. In fact, he wrote CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Roque and his fellow Prime Ministers, expressing grave concern about the regional movement. In his letter he stated that CARICOM is on pause and referred to the decision taken in Guyana in 2011 to put the Single Market and Economy (CSME) on pause. Dr Gonsalves said in his letter that “surely times demand that we move beyond minimalism which inexplorably leads to regression, and added that pausing is but a euphemism for standing still which in a dynamic world is sliding backwards”.

Stuart made the comment to Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell who paid a courtesy call to the Barbados leader shortly after he was returned to office as head of the Spice Isle. The Bajan Head of Government said that critics of the pace of CARICOM only look at the single market and single economy and not at success in other areas. One wonders what area of success the prime minister was referring to when there have been criticisms that decisions taken by Heads of Government were not being implemented by the Secretariat; the problem of freedom of movement in the region; and Barbados has been identified as the main country which harassed CARICOM nationals. In fact, not long ago, dozens of Guyanese who were living in Barbados for several years were booted out, not to mention the attitude of immigration officers at the Grantley Adams International Airport. In fact, the Caribbean Court of Justice is now hearing a matter brought by a Jamaican woman who complained of being humiliated.

This is the 40th year of CARICOM, and instead of more co-operation among the member states, there have been more rift and conflicts; one coming from Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, when she stated that her country would no longer be a ATM machine for other CARICOM countries and the failure of countries to remove the Privy Council as the final court and accept the CCJ. This is very unfortunate, since only three countries, Guyana, Barbados and Belize, have done so, although the regional court was inaugurated six long years ago. It is disturbing that although Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago were in the forefront towards the establishment, and they gained independence 50 years ago, they still hold on to the coattails of the Privy Council.

Former Commonwealth Secretary General Sir Shridath Ramphal, who is known as the Caribbean man, since he started the regional integration movement, having served as the first head of the West Indian Commission, and was UWI Chancellor for 14 years, is very worried about the future of CARICOM and time and time again spoke out against “slow down” and pause. He also made the point that the future of CARICOM rests on the CCJ and had pleaded for years for other countries to join the appellate division of the regional court.

Another Caribbean leader, P.J. Patterson, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, who has been advocating for regional integration for decades, said in Guyana earlier this year that there was urgent need for CARICOM to implement long outstanding decisions and stressed that “some decisive steps are urgently required to rescue CARICOM or else life support will come too late to prevent a coma.”

Oscar Ramjeet

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