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The Clash of the Caribbean Culture Warriors

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Proverbes: 29:18 King James Version

With the Olympics in full bloom, one cannot help but focus on some of the rivalries on and off the field that can have far reaching implications for winners or losers alike in our domestic and regional global village. In this case, I am talking specifically about an impending showdown between the Bengal Tiger Mr. Basdeo Panday, and his arch rival Mr. Patrick Manning, on this very contentious issue called Caribbean integration. The facts are that Mr. Manning is all for it ‘come hell or high water,’ and Mr. Panday is totally opposed, for his own justifiable reasons. Manning believes that his government was given the mandate to fully pursue any policy at this juncture that is geared towards regional integration. Panday claims that the PNM is a minority government, and therefore requires a referendum before moving forward on what he sees as purposeless integration. The still suspended Opposition leader claims to be concern for the eventual demise of the respectable T&T Dollar to some unfamiliar concoction by perennial nemesis ‘El Suprimo Mr. Manning,’ and his nine other OEC member States. Much like his British counterparts in post war Europe, Mr. Panday is not convinced that the majority of the population will agree with our present government’s Caribbean “ kum ba ya” assertions, or pipe dreams-depending on your taste. Will this integration foray be another Federation / Caricom dud, or can it translate to something potent and creditable as that of the economic and politically vibrant European Union that finally emerged and most political pundits laud about?

Since we know for a fact that the Opposition leader is not going to get his political way unless he can convince a few disgruntled PNM backbenchers to cross the floor, then it is now left to your humble servant -the voice of reason-to attempt to fill this monumental void as usual, in terms of useful, coherent, discourse aimed specifically at enlightenment for the you the many unsuspecting, innocent, and often abused masses. To stick to our Olympic athletic metaphor, what exactly are the spicific intentions of both our political contenders by this obvious displays of flexing, public displays and similar forms of political or posturing? I believe it is to boost self confidence, intimidate rivals, and impress die-hard party fans, in similar fashion to Mr. Bolt, Thompson, Ato or even Crawford back in the day would do before a big race. It is clear to see who has the best chance at getting gold here in similar fashion to our young neighbor Bolt. Mr. Manning is the personification of the world record holder, the justifiably cocky one, and clearly has the political advantage as was fortunate to peak at the right time with regards to pushing this delicate issue.

The Caribbean region has certain commonalities with respect to socio- economic com political issues that cannot be delayed any longer while Mr. Panday tries to win his mammoth criminal case, reassume political power, and await some mystical outside savior. Something tells me he just might pull up short with a cramp in all these important races as either his running technique is suspect , his running days are over or a new coach is needed. Some might say to the senior Statesman, get with program my friend, if in his quest to be President, John Mc Cain can change, be flexible, and innovative at his tender stage of his career so can anyone that really care. Our economies are stagnant, crime is rampant, terrorism lurks, encroaching drug trades are always a treat, and our regional leaders are becoming aware that the Caribbean Basin Initiative and other ludicrous insignificant overtures by global or regional hegemonic rivals are of little use to citizens unless we are on the same page. Score one for Mr. Manning in this heat. Yes Mr. Panday we do require comprehensive dialogues, but please no more procrastination gimmicks. Our citizens are crying out for jobs, security, education, formulation of strategies to enhance environmental, and health needs.
We might not have a massive crisis like the one that existed in post 1945 European destructions that enabled the EU to evolve. There might not be a distinctive benefactor with a Marshall Plan proposal or 40 year security/ economic umbrella that ensured that the European Union and not the African Union become the gold standard as far as integration movements. We’ll work with what we have as this cosmopolitan, talented, industrious and educated people of diverse races and ethnicities. We are willing and able to finally come together, and possess the foresight and ability to entice others to commit to the region as we operate as useful and mutually beneficial partners. Welcome China, India, Serious Africa, Committed Europe, North and South America, focused Middle Eastern countries like UAE. I’ll tell you , I am feeling somewhat optimistic about this ‘Special Integrated Economic Zone,’ that Dubai has perfected , and is now prepared to export to Trinidad and Tobago – and so our regional brothers and sisters. 21st Century here we come.

On the question of marriage, Mr. Panday is correct; one should view this regional integration concept in much the same serious manner one looks at a marriage proposal. In plain parlance, what’s in it for me? It is a reasonable and practical concern that I am also deeply apprehensive about. Hopefully our country will understand its important leadership role in the entire process, and not sacrifice domestic needs as it extends its arms to regional neighbors. In short, our national interest should always remain paramount. Without Germany, the EU would have failed miserably devoid of the German’s pre World War industriousness, ingenuity, and vast resources. Without England’s Churchill the USA would not have invested its time, people and resources in the interest of Europe initially. The passion of France’s Charles de Gaulle, kept the dream alive and help make the transition from the 1951 Foundations of the European Coal and Steel Community to the eventual giant it became as the later day EU. In much the same way that we have to evaluate what each partner is bringing to the table as far as a serious marriage oriented relationship, so too we have to do some ‘horn examination’ probing, as indicated by Mr. Panday when it come to regional integration to ensure that no ‘traitors are on board,’ since many have been burnt in the past through confused and misguided regional leadership that can talk the talk , but would dash for the door once 29 pieces of silver are offered elsewhere at some opportune time.

Recently, I came across a quote favored by Tony C. Hsieh, a young successful, Harvard educated e-commerce on line shoe entrepreneur. It said, “Chase the vision," "The money and profits will come." I sort of like that, and so said to myself, if his company can gross sales to the tune of 840 million in a 1.4 billion dollar industry , think of the possibilities for a nation and a region as a whole, if we can tap into the dormant, and unused skills that must also be present or can be harnessed . This is the way forward politically, as the time is right. It is the moment for our people to charge ahead for gold. Be forewarned however fellow citizens, this success we’ve seen depicted on the grand sporting, political, and economic stage, is not always obtained without hard work. So roll up those collective sleeves and press forward Mr. Manning or Prime Minister Mickela, as our people are starved for new visions, action oriented ideas. Here is a little secret you may not be aware of. They could care less where it comes from, so long as it produces positive returns to benefit us all. “Chase the vision, the money and profits will follow.” Sounds logical to me, but then I am a political junkie and a sucker for modern innovative ideas, and therefore what do I know? Any takers out there folks?

Trinidad and Tobago News

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