Incoming CARICOM Chair blasts its structures

| March 11, 2014
CaribDirect writer Robertson Henry

Robertson S. Henry. Sports and Cultural Contributor

Caribbean news. MONDAY MARCH 10, 2014; BUCCAMENT BAY, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES – Speakers raised questions as to the future viability of the regional body CARICOM, when the 25th Inter-sessional Heads of Government meeting opened in at Buccament Bay Resort in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Caribbean Community CARICOM celebrated its 40th Anniversary last year, and during those forty years, CARICOM has chalked up a wide range f achievements.

Some of which are impressive, and others modest, while there have been setbacks, disappointments and failures. Host Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves pointed out that these centered on “freedom of movement of persons, governance in the Community, and implementation issues.”

Addressing the opening ceremony, Gonsalves further stated, “The accomplishments touch and concern functional cooperation, particularly in health, education, and citizens’ security, trade and economic integration, and yes…freedom of movement too.”

He pointed out that the region had seen advances although that area is still problematic, such as “the coordination of public policy on renewable energy, agriculture and tourism, air transport, financial services, foreign affairs and dispute settlement through the Caribbean Court of Justice.”

The incoming Chairperson of the regional body informed the gathering that there was still plenty of work to be done to realise the full fruition of the Treaty of Chagaramus.

Foreign Minister Camillo Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines chats with his Bajan counterpart McLean (photo by Kingsley Roberts)

Foreign Minister Camillo Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines chats with his Bajan counterpart McLean (photo by Kingsley Roberts)

“It is the frustrating and unfulfilled potential of CARICOM which prompts stinging critics, including a justifiable sense in some quarters that this regional body is unequally yoked, and thus distributes or allocates its benefits too unevenly.” Dr. Gonsalves added.

“The disillusionment from the critics stems in from large measure nevertheless from their illusion from CARICOM nature and its institutional arrangement.”

Heads meet before the real business began (photo by Kingsley Roberts)

Heads meet before the real business began (photo by Kingsley Roberts)

In stating what CARICOM is not, Dr. Gonsalves said that CARICOM is not “a central government, of disparate territories. It is not a unitary state, it is not a federation, it is not a con-federation. The revised Treaty of Chagaramus conceives CARICOM as a Community of Sovereign States.

“Its centre has been deliberately designed as a weak superstructure, which constantly gropes for consensus. That is what the political market can bear; that is the reality that the broad citizenry in the community has endorsed.”

Outgoing chair Kamla Persad-Bissesar chats with incoming chair Ralph Gonsalves ((photo by Kingsley Roberts)

Outgoing chair Kamla Persad-Bissesar chats with incoming chair Ralph Gonsalves ((photo by Kingsley Roberts)

Meanwhile, outgoing Chairperson of CARICOM, Prime Minister Honourable Kamla Persad- Bissessar, Prime Minster of Trinidad and Tobago, in speaking of the regional body, stated “Today, I am sure you will agree there are many successes we can discuss, even as we continue to face many challenges which, together, we can and must overcome.”

In speaking of Trinidad and Tobago’s tenure as Chair of CARICOM, she told the gathering “Decisions taken at the 34th Regular Meeting of the Conference, as well as urgent matters which arose, helped in great measure to shape my tenure as Chairman.

“Economic challenges which faced Member States and the Region were brought to the top of our agenda, and I am delighted that one of the major outcomes was the approval for the establishment of the Commission on the Economy to advise us on solutions that would lead to growth and development.”

The head table poses for the cameras (photo by Kingsley Roberts)

The head table poses for the cameras (photo by Kingsley Roberts)

In that regard, the Commission’s work has already begun and with a deep appreciation of the fact that sustainable development can only be achieved through the free movement of people and goods, reliable transportation across the region has also become a top priority.

Additionally, the July 2013 Conference of Heads of Government agreed to establish a CARICOM Reparations Commission to shape the Community’s quest for reparations from the former colonial European countries, for native genocide, the trans-Atlantic slave trade and a racialized system of chattel slavery.

The Executive of the CARICOM Reparations Commission met on December 09, 2013 in Jamaica to define and set in train its plan of action.

“A regional dialogue on persons living with disabilities and special needs was also commenced in July, and by year’s end, a High Level Meeting on the Rights of persons with disabilities in the Caribbean was convened in Haiti.

“It is my hope that this initiative will progress quickly so that we can achieve a fully disability-friendly region,” the Trinidad and Tobago Head of Government added.

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