“The Community and Common Market are intended to promote the coordinated development of the region and to increase intra-regional trade thereby reducing dependence on extra-regional sources. The community will institutionalize the machinery for the many shared services, which already exist and which even the most prosperous of the More Developed Countries, could not operate on its own.” –
Errol Barrow, (July 4, 1973) when the Treaty of Chaguaramas was signed, establishing the Caribbean Community and Common Market
More than forty years after the founding fathers of the Caribbean Community [CARICOM] initiated that regional project, the process of true integration, as opposed, perhaps, to cooperation at carefully chosen levels, has been scarcely advanced. Indeed, the three leading institutions that might have served as most cogent evidence of a deepening regional integration appear currently to be battling against the odds for relevance and for their continued existence in their originally contemplated forms.
The University of the West Indies [UWI], an institution that preceded the formation of CARICOM, but fittingly symbolic of the regionally integrated effort in tertiary education and developmental research, struggles to maintain its unitary character through the One University initiative, although the fight may have already been lost so far as the traditional professional disciplines of Medicine and Law are concerned.
West Indies cricket, for decades a highly successful example of what we may achieve together, has succumbed to the effects of indiscipline, inconsistency and shallow concentration of some of its players and is currently placed near the bottom of the world rankings in those longer versions of the game that we once ruled as champions. The recent trifecta of victories in global contests should have captured the popular regional imagination of a soonest return to superiority.
At the same time however, it has served to expose to universal scrutiny the festering sore that constitutes the industrial relation between the players and the West Indies Cricket Board, scarcely a recipe for prospects of future success.
Now, in consequence, some regional heads of state, rather than seeking to use the moral authority of their offices to mend the broken fences between the Board and the players, for reason (s) not immediately clear to this writer, have sought to demand the removal of the constitutionally elected directorship of what is essentially a private organization and to establish some other body more acceptable to them in its stead.
I dealt with this matter in the first part of this essay last week and the suggestion from some readers that the heads of government might, as a last resort, simply refuse to allow the WICB to stage matches under its auspices in their respective jurisdictions is liable to create more problems than it might ever resolve, for all concerned, not excluding those leaders who might think of playing this card.
A third regional body, itself created by international treaty, has suffered perhaps the “most unkindest” cut of all. The Caribbean Court of Justice [CCJ] established by the regional constitution to interpret that Constitution itself, the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, and to replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the final appellate court for regional jurisdictions, has failed spectacularly to capture the regional imagination in its secondary guise.
Four jurisdictions only have found it possible so far to accede to its apical appellate function -Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica- although, to be fair, other voices have been raised in favour of accession, and Antigua & Barbuda has put arrangements in place for a constitutionally required referendum to be able to replace the JCPC which is deeply entrenched in its Constitution as that nation’s final court.
Others appear, however, to languish under the disablement of partisan political dissension, an absence of political will or plain suspicion as to the international allure of any regional court. The insecure regional phenomenon of “how we go look (to others) ” is apparently not restricted to the populace of any one country only.
Not that one would think that the integration project is anything other than alive and well if we are to judge from the lofty aspirational speeches of regional leaders. Hear former Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar in 2013, “Our challenge is not to be decisive, not to hesitate, not to reverse, not to turn around. Our challenge is not to delay and loiter over hardship, adversity or difficulty, but to persist and to rally on our course towards the realization of our destiny that our forefathers have set for us…”
And Mrs Portia Simpson Miller, the former Prime Minister of Jamaica, “CARICOM…represents the vision and aspiration of a forefathers for a strong integrated region which would provide the best prospects for economic and social development…”
Another former leader, President Ramotar of Guyana was more realist in his assessment, “…We have studies on transportation, we have the Regional Financial Architecture, the free movement of people and hassle fee travel is vital and very important in helping us to strengthen our integration movement. This implementation deficit needs to be resolved lest we find ourselves guilty of a commitment deficit…”
This observation by ex-President Ramotar, especially those aspects concerning free movement and hassle free travel, provides an ideal point of departure for the third part of this piece; the pledged interstatal commitment to regional freedom of movement of CARICOM nationals and its collision with a contrasting amalgam of shoddy generalization, of a select xenophobia, of jingoism and of a crass appeal to national sovereignty whenever reminded of voluntarily undertaken obligations that bedevils our best efforts to act as committed regional partners in any integration exercise in this context.
To be continued…