The premature death of Professor Norman Girvan has robbed the Caribbean of one of its genuine intellectuals and, in particular, of the leading theorist of the regional union, Caricom. I had the misfortune of not knowing Professor Girvan personally, but feel as if I did: we have a regular email correspondence and have been guests together on a couple radio phone-in programmes. What makes this virtual friendship more real is that a very good friend and mentor, the woman I can thank for most of my political education, Selma James, the widow of the late CLR James, would often remind me that I should make contact with ‘Norman’, as she addressed him.
After the failure of the West Indies Federation in 1962, the most practicable attempt at regional unity since then has been Caricom. But, as I have said on a number of occasions here and elsewhere, although the intention is laudable, the reality has been sadly flawed. Ignoring for the time being the ill-thought out idea of a free movement of people – in a public debate in London some time ago I raised the issue of the Barbados legislation being specific about free movement for those who have graduated from the University of the West Indies and the University of Guyana, but other graduates enjoying the same benefit with the minister’s ‘discretion’. Someone once tried to persuade me that this ‘discretion’ will only be a formality, but can you imagine some small-minded minister having this weapon in his/her hands and not using it, especially if it is someone they have political objections to?