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SAD MOMENTS

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The Caribbean never ceases to amaze, and its people, to be continuously in motion, rising to heights occasionally, only to sink to depths the very next moment. That inconsistency is our biggest bugbear, whether it be in sport, culture, production or leadership. On the latter issue, this past week has been marred by a few negative developments on which I would like to comment today.{{more}}

One of these is the reaction to the ruling of the British Privy Council in regard to Jamaica’s accession to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Just as Jamaica was about to partner Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados in pioneering the latest thrust in Caribbean integration, the launching of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and its legal underpinning, the CCJ in its full jurisdiction, the Privy Council ruled in favour of a challenge by the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to the procedures followed by the Jamaican government to replace the Privy Council by the CCJ as Jamaica’s highest Court of Appeal.

No matter what damage control is employed, in spite of the fact that CARICOM is determined to press on with the CCJ implementation, the Privy Council ruling is a setback for the region as a whole. What rankles me is the reaction of people who should know better, some in politics, others in the media. Rather than confining their remarks to the need for proper procedures to be followed in establishing such regional institutions, we get a sense of gloating, over the Privy Council’s decision. Of course, the Privy Council has served many a useful purpose, provided legal and constitutional guidance, helped to uphold and safeguard precious democratic rights, but it is and remains a foreign institution, a colonial institution. In as much as we insist on the right to govern ourselves politically, so too must we display the level of maturity, political and constitutional governance as to develop institutions to provide the legal framework for such development.

It saddens me to hear our own Scribes and Pharisees preaching the “Gospel” according to this institution. It is as though we as a people are so disrespectful of the rule of law, so undemocratic by nature, that we cannot be trusted to make impartial judgments on our actions. The same sadness affects me also when I hear of the Opposition in Barbados preparing to challenge the decision of that country’s government to finally be rid of the British Monarchy. The opposition is within its rights to remind the public that the government which now favours a republican system, is the same one which made a sacred promise to hold a referendum on the monarchy, but if, the Opposition is in support of republican status, what is all the fuss about a referendum. Are we not giving grist to the mill of those for whom the British Monarchy is at the apex of constitutional governance?

More than being saddened I am pained by another weakness on our past. We as a region are supposedly committed to integration, in all its forms, beginning with the CSME and CCJ. Yet in this same region we can view on television England playing South Africa in cricket, can get a sneeze- by- sneeze update on the Pope’s illness, follow a step- by- step account of George Bush’s inauguration but when it comes to events- cultural, sporting, political, etc- concerning us, we draw a blank.

Just imagine that Carnival has just concluded in Trinidad and Tobago and- not a glimpse. We have seen more of Rio’s Carnival on T.V. than footage from our own neighbour, T and T. Is this not the country with which we are contemplating political union? And what of Mas Dominik, in a sister island in the Windwards, in the OECS, one of our own partners in closer “regional economic and political integration”? The regional cricket competition at the highest level passes, – boo for us. Can we really be serious? Do we mean what we say by “regional integration”?

Sadly, we have a long way to go. A lot of road needs to be covered in our value judgments, a great deal of maturity to be acquired to make the distinction between scoring cheap political points and addressing issues fundamental to our social psychology and our very being. We are no better and certainly no worse than any other people. But we need to demonstrate this in our approaches to constitutional, legal, political and cultural development.

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