Monday, July 8 2013
THE meeting of Caricom leaders in Trinidad and Tobago now is an apt time to celebrate the achievements of this regional bloc, and its goals of a single market and economy (CSME).
Caricom has been a stout lobby in its own right and in its various expanded manifestations such as Cariforum (Caricom plus the Dominican Republic) for negotiations with other external entities such as the European Union (EU) with whom the EPA has recently been signed, or the CariCan treaty signed with Canada.
Caricom’s very success has led it to expand to attract non-English speaking nations such as Haiti and Suriname, with even talk of the Caribbean’s Dutch and French speaking islands joining in.
In fact Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Dookeran, has even urged a shift in thinking towards an expanded and more fluid definition of the Caribbean than Caricom, at a recent meeting of Caricom Foreign Ministers in TT.
Indeed, the region’s common “Caribbean-ness” was celebrated in many ways in the speeches and entertainment at last Friday’s ceremony at the Chaguaramas Convention Centre to re-enact the signing of the 1973 Treaty of Chaguaramas that established Caricom 40 years ago.
The dances and songs offered by troupes from TT (including Chinese dragons), Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados were truly a sight to behold, with at least one regional leader urging all leaders to emulate the entertainers in displaying their Caribbean-ness.
“This morning through song and movement, art and drama, we showcase our ‘Caribbean-ness’, testimony to our creativity and innovation and our unbridled ability to rise above any challenge we may have to face,” said Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. “Let this re-enactment today be not just a physical dramatisation of our past, but a tangible rededication to the future.”
Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, the region’s other woman leader, also saluted Caricom as not just an organisation but as representing a vision for a strong integrated region.
“We the Caribbean are great peoples whose spirits continue to infuse the world with music, colour, spice, vibrancy and excitement,” said Simpson- Miller. “No challenge can daunt a people who created the technology that makes sweet music from steel pans. No problem can stop a people whose reggae music has inspired revolutionary change across the world. What can deter peoples whose athletic prowess defies the laws of physics and whose depth of thought is seen in distinguished scholarship?”
Simpson-Miller said the world had stopped to watch the prowess of Caribbean athletes at the London 2012 Olympics.
“Nothing can top a united Caribbean people who hail from the crest of the Blue Mountains to the glassy waters of Gran Anse. We are from the deep forests of Guyana and Suriname. We celebrate the beautiful bays of St Vincent, the hot sulphur springs of St Lucia and Dominica.”
Hailing the journey from slavery to present, Simpson-Miller urged, “Let us unite as one region to shape the future of Caricom together.”
In his poem Star-apple People which speaks of inter-island traders loading their boxes of fruit at the wharf, entertainer Paul Keens-Douglas convinced guests last Friday that whatever the formalities of regionalism might be, Caribbean peoples are already integrating at the ground-level.
Indeed a casual stroll through downtown Port-of-Spain reveals Guyanese vendors who work 12 hours a day seven days a week, while the musical lilt of Jamaican women workers can be heard in shops throughout this land.
The Caribbean has done well in many ways creating its West Indies Cricket Team, Caribbean Court of Justice, University of the West Indies, Caribbean Development Bank and Caribbean Public Health Association, to name but a few common institutions. So there’s much to celebrate, and even though many regional nations are in an economic lull, we hope that both individually and collectively, all are inspired by the fine offerings last Friday to aspire to a bright future for us all.