Caricom: backward ever, forward never

By Raffique Shah
Sunday, June 14th 2009

Caricom LeadersCARIBBEAN unity is an imperative for the survival of small island states like ours. But it seems to be coming apart at the seams, thanks to our tactless and egotistic leaders. Our disintegration comes at a time when much of the world is moving towards some form of unity, if only to sustain their economies in a time of crisis and in the longer term. We are drifting apart as never before. From the draconian immigration policies of Barbados to confusing signals on free and fair trade between Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, our leaders seem to be working overtime to dismantle what little unity we now enjoy.

Here in T&T, most citizens believe we do not need closer ties with our “poor-ass” Caribbean neighbours. There are two camps that oppose any integration. The first comprises people who are convinced that with our gas-and-oil generated wealth, other Caribbean countries seek only to ride our backs.

The second group, comprising mainly Indo-Trinidadians, see dilution of their political clout in any move towards further integration, and more so in Prime Minister Manning’s initiative towards an undefined political unity with three OECS countries.

While it is true oil and gas make us the strongest economy in the region, reality is these two commodities are wasting assets. And our government seems intent on utilising gas at a rate that is not sustainable. Unless we discover one trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas every year, we’d hardly be in a position to carry consumption of this critical commodity beyond 15 years. Those who believe we shall forever remain “sheiks of the Caribbean” must be prepared to contribute their personal “methane power” to the grid (if you don’t know how, ask the experts!), because we shall soon run out of steam, quite literally.

As for Indo-Trinidadians who see self-preservation as being more important than survival of the Caribbean, they live in as unrealistic a world as their gas-forever counterparts. I fully agree that Guyana and Suriname must be part of any deepening of Caribbean integration. But so must the other islands, however poor in resources they may be. These same islands form the biggest market for most of our manufactured products, as they will remain for some time.

This brings me to the apartheid-like immigration policies of the Barbados Government that has the support of the majority of Barbadians. Illegal immigration is a global problem, especially in countries whose economies seem to be doing well.

Should Trinidad and Tobago decide to expel illegal immigrants the way Barbados proposes to do, thousands of our Caricom brethren would be booted back to the small islands, to Guyana and Suriname. No country wants to be swamped by illegal immigrants who deny its citizens jobs, school places and more. But any clampdown on visitors who have run afoul of the immigration laws must be fair, not targeting only Indians and small-islanders.

Our Bajan friends would hardly act in a similar manner against Whites who breach their immigration laws. Have they considered, too, that should Trinidad seek to repatriate Barbados-born residents or citizens-something we’ll never do, such are the good relations we share with them-the stress that country’s economy would face?

Tit-for-tat is not our way treating with our Caricom neighbours. And since most of those targeted happen to be Indo-Guyanese, it seems that Prime Minister David Thompson has not considered how important Guyana will be in the future-food-equation for the Caribbean. Nor has he looked at the extent a backlash from prosperous Indo-tourists would have on the struggling-but-vital lifeblood of Barbados’ economy.

I have stayed away from Barbados because I do not feel welcome there-quite unlike the comfort I enjoy in other Caribbean countries. But there are more contentious issues than Barbados’ selective xenophobia. Recently, T&T authorities “detained” a shipment of Jamaican patties saying they wanted to examine the facilities where the patties were manufactured. What if Jamaica wants to inspect our plants for every product they import from us? Where is the free trade element of the CSME that all Caricom countries signed on to?

Not that Jamaica’s PM, Bruce Golding, is without sin when it comes to regional integration. Eminent Jamaica-born Professor Norman Girvan, in a brief paper on Caricom’s integration challenges, cited Golding’s opposition to the “E” factor in the CSME, the virtual standstill on the freedom of movement clause, and the non-acceptance of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) by most member states. While we quibble over the extent to which the Caribbean should have cooperation if not integration, other “blocks” are forging ahead on the road to unity.

Hugo Chavez’s ALBA is marching on, even with MERCOSUR already in place. The idea of a Bank of South America is very much on the cards. As Girvan pointed out, we rushed to sign on to an EPA with the EU, but we fail to put our own houses in order. The EU is expanding even as it jettisons the age-old sugar protocol, leaving many CARICOM countries in the lurch. But we Caribbean crabs-in-a-barrel are fighting over a handful of illegal immigrants, fair trade and speedier integration. Talk about a backward people saddled with myopic leaders.

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6 thoughts on “Caricom: backward ever, forward never”

  1. I visit Barbados frequently and feel more welcomed there than in Tobago.And I am an Indo-Canadian-Trinboganian.

  2. Brother Joe Singh ,perhaps a win/ win situation exist during your periodic visits to Barbados -‘the Land of the Stolen Flying Fish.’ You conceal your despicable, condescending behaviors towards our upstart Bajan friends , and they in turn do not view you as a threat merely interested in grabbing a piece of their choice real estate in Christ Church , and so treat you like a wonderful tourist as they should ,while you spend your money.
    I could be mistaken , and it’s simply the fact that the Bajans do not have our domestic petty problems to grapple with , neither do they have our natural resources to fall back on , as such their respective governments have made tourism a priority, and their non – divided ,patriotic people ,believes in true development of their nation unlike you and your 1.3 million confused , self hating , fellow national chameleons ,that would do anything to show how much you love another country , culture, and nation , but despise your own fervently irrespective of who rule the roost. “Beware of a man with nothing to loose,” someone once said.
    The situatior in Tobago is very dire , and one has to be heartless, and not too far from foolish , not to empathize.

  3. Neal, my man, I am a true citizen of the world and I approach all with an open mind. Yes, I do drop my hundreds in Barbados quite frequently, but I receive service and value for my money.I also do not clutter my mind with the regional politics and I don’t care where they find their flying fish. However ,I love the way their chefs prepare it!Contrary to your outburst, I am not confused, but show respect and understanding to all and, man,I assure I love myself!

  4. There is an old Persian saying that “He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool; avoid him.” It is not my place to categorize you as such cousin Joe, and so I’ll “stand mute” on the subject at this point.
    Nevertheless, I would begin to be a bit wary of a Caribbean neighbor that can through systematic programming only treat you an extremely successful “Indo-Canadian-Trinboganian,” like a rock star tourist, as an encouragement to spend your Canadian and Trini dollars , but if you were some ‘scrunting,’ barefoot, rice paddy bloke, from near Berbice , or the Rupununi Savannah Guyana , then “ dog better than you,” as far as treatment. Hopefully you can still can appreciate the analogy.
    I was fortunate to live until the age of 16 with the smartest woman that ever lived , and she never failed to remind me in wise words that “ all skin teeth ain’t laugh,” cousin Joe. It is not bad council that you will be well advised to follow as you continue to as you claim “show respect and understanding to all,” avoid cluttering your “mind with the regional politics,” as well as love yourself- and of course -the rest of the world.
    I wish you well, fellow global citizen.

  5. If the prime minister of T&T says that his country cannot support the burden of illegal immigrants… will the citizens of T&T agree to side with the law-breakers in spite of what they know and see everyday?

    PM Thompson took a look at the situation and in light of what Barbados lacks that other islands, and Guyana have in abundance such as natural resources, it was clear that in the face of the global recession, Barbados needed to tighten its boot strings. This is not Draconian, this is enforcing the rule of law– which most people like about Barbados.

    Indo-Guyanese are not singled out in as much as they make themselves singular based on their behaviour that rules afoul of the rule of law in Barbados. If you are not currently residing in Barbados you would not understand. It’s good to be a blogger because no one asks you for facts.

    Further, it is every country’s right to enforce the laws of its lands. And no Bajan, has EVER since the law was enacted has EVER said that it would be wrong for any sovereign country to enforce laws that also might send Bajans back home if they break laws in a next man land. That’s what no one’s hypothesis can deny. No one is exempt from being a law-abiding person, especially in someone else’s country. However, legal immigrants are 100% welcome and arrive daily.

    Should also add, since you’re a blogger and you don’t check facts, no amnesty is offered to non-CARICOM citizens. If you are from outside CARICOM and you are found to have overstayed you are summarily deported. If you don’t believe me, Google deportations of British citizens in Barbados, they have been going on since the beginning of the year.

    But you cannot tell people that or that kills your whole blog argument.

  6. Where did my naïve cousin Joe disappear to? I wonder if he still believes that our self serving friends from the ‘Landof the Stolen Flying Fish , and Awawack Cement Factory ,’ still have his back. On a scale of 1 to 10 Baje, how effective do you think you were in convincing us fellow bloggers-not from the planet Pluto- that Barbados aka Litle England. Had embarked on a policy of deportation of British subjects and other Europeans from your country that overstayed their welcome?
    Yes indeed , if it walk and talk like a duck,then it cannot be a. Tobago Cocrico, but a duck, eh?
    There is one truism , about our good folks from the country that is 10 meters bigger than Tobago. They have always look down at Trinidadians as a bunch of bumbling idiots. Their recent Tobago oil/gas and fish , political adventurism overtures was the final manifestation of this.
    It is sad that today they and spokesman Bage would choose to defend this greedy /selfish nonsense against fellow Caricom nationals as some law abiding action. Shame on you Baje.
    “Miss Barbados does’nt know about flying fish. Miss Barbados is as Bajan as apple pie. ” Sing Gabby.

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