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Petty nationalism serves no useful purpose

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I make no apologies for my continuing advocacy in favour of Caribbean integration, in spite of the short-sightedness, too prevalent in the media unfortunately, which pours scorn on efforts in that direction. We seem unable to distinguish between shortcomings and failures and the wider project itself, and wish to use every failure to implement as a justification for damning the regional exercise itself.{{more}}

This is most unfortunate, for whatever individual successes at national levels, more and more, any objective assessment will reveal that our future in the Caribbean lies in collective action and in strengthening the integration process. It is not the wisdom of this course which ought to be questioned, but the will to follow up on agreements and to implement those lines of action collectively worked out between us.

It is sad that there continues to be a huge disconnect between official agreements and what happens at the practical level—on the ground. The most vivid illustration of this is provided by the problems which surround regional travel and the freedom of Caribbean people to move between territories, to find employment and investment opportunities. We seem to continue to treat one another as national threats, giving preference to investment, tourism and residence from extra-regional personnel rather our own Caribbean sisters and brothers. Even in the 21st century, we are still to regard our own Caribbean visitors as welcome tourists, which we do unreservedly for others, especially of a different hue.

Currently the fledgling regional Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has before it a case involving the alleged harassment and physical search of a Jamaican woman by Barbadian immigration authorities. The Jamaican government has now applied to enjoin, claiming it is seeing after the interests of the Jamaican people. While Barbados has been historically singled out for not being exactly welcoming to other Caribbean immigrants, Barbadian authorities are by no means the only culprits. In spite of official hassle-free agreements in the OECS, many immigration officers at the respective points of entry continue to behave as though they are unaware of such undertakings.

There are some simple and far-from-costly measures which can be undertaken to help to promote that spirit of Caribbean oneness and unity. Take a simple thing like immigration entry forms. Why is it that each individual territory has to print its own national form, when basically, all of them require the same information? Will it not be cheaper to print, in bulk, forms for the entire Caribbean area, making it cheaper and avoid the all-too-periodic shortage of forms for this or that country, causing unnecessary inconvenience to travellers?

Another area which I have long advocated is media exchanges. Almost every national radio station relays broadcasts from some international source, but there is a reluctance, even in the OECS, the forerunners in regional integration, to over the course of a week, relay at least one news broadcast from a sister territory. If we can do the BBC each day, can’t we relay, even at the limited governmental level, a one-a-day broadcast, 10 minutes or so, featuring Grenada, one day, St Kitts/ Nevis the next, and so on? Will it not help our sports fans if we were to hear what is happening in the sporting arena in Antigua or Dominica on a weekly basis? Surely these can only help, not hinder the integration movement.

These may sound minimalist, but each little bit helps. We must do our utmost to combat the petty nationalism to which we so often resort and which does us little good in the long run.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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