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Electorate Must Sanction Integration
Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2003

By STEPHEN KANGAL M.O.M. CARONI

Governments must rigidly adhere to their political responsibility and obligation to seek a mandate prior to conducting even preliminary/exploratory political integration talks with other CARICOM states from the electorate and receive the requisite clear and unambiguous sanction prior to embarking on such talks.

We the people must insist that such far- reaching political demarche should not be initiated regionally, as previous governments have been done, because of the false and misleading perception held by successive Governments that the T&T electorate is neither schooled nor interested in foreign policy/external matters.

Approaches geared to promote political integration must be non-partisan. This is the only way to achieve longevity, sustainability and consistency even though regimes may change.

Political integration involves the surrender of T&Tís sovereignty, political independence as well as its territorial integrity- the legal attributes of the very existence of the nation state. How can we ever forget the externally- imposed, still Ėborn and aborted West Indian Federation that gave birth to the new mathematical discovery that one from ten leaves zero. The Federation collapsed in one fell swoop.

We must be told in our Parliament in no uncertain way how the totality of our national interests and not ethnic security considerations, will be enhanced by moving from economic integration to political integration with other Caribbean countries. Is it exclusively a numbers game geared for electoral purposes?

The aversion to Caribbean Political Integration II appears to be deeply and irrevocably embedded in the Jamaican psyche. Accordingly it is not surprising that Prime Minister PJ Patterson of Jamaica has vocally distanced himself from Prime Minster Manningís intention to host such a Conference in POS beginning 15 February. In fact the Jamaican PM categorically denied that he was party to any such prior agreement/ political discussions held during the informal meeting of Caricom Heads in Cuba recently to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the establishment of Caricom/Cuba diplomatic relations.

We seem to be flirting with the far-reaching, serious but controversial subject of the political integration of the Antilles archipelago in a most flippant, cosmetic, superficial and cavalier manner geared to divert attention away from T&Tís pressing domestic realities.

What is the status of the 1995 Manning Initiative involving potentially Guyana, Barbados and T&T that generated so many unfulfilled expectations on political union and which never got off the ground? Not daunted with the attendant lack of a credibility problem, PM Manning abandons the Manning Initiative and broaches another proposal of a potential political union with St.Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago. But before any format is conceptualised to constitute the bases for discussions on this proposal, he talks to other Caricom partners and agrees to host a February 15 Inter-Sessional Heads of Government Caricom Meeting to be held in POS under the rubric " Options for Governance". This is a euphemism for political integration being pursued without receiving or requesting any mandate from the ethnically polarised T&T electorate on October 7 last. Is the proposed political integration within Caricom consistent with the 2020 Vision or is it inconsistent with or detrimental to our first world aspiration?

It would appear necessary to constantly remind our adventurous politicians that there is a correlation among demographics, ethnicity, geography and politics in T&T. Accordingly any attempt to discuss political integration must be premised on and derive its legitimacy and seriousness from the will of the TT electorate as manifested and expressed in election manifestoes and pronounced by the people. It must not constitute a long term, dubious political strategy nor be pursued to embellish and develop oneís cosmetic image/standing as a Caribbean Man or an integrationist. This is riding rough- shod over the will of the people. Such major issues with far reaching consequences and import must be first debated fully in our Parliament and be subjected to and receive national consensus and sanction from the holding of widespread national consultations.

We have to take back our country from the clutches of egotistical politicians who feel that once elected to Parliament they have a licence to speculate with our patrimony including our LNG on the Caribbean political stock market. We do not surrender/abrogate our inalienable rights to participate fully, effectively, equitably and continuously in the ongoing democratic process when we spend five minutes every five years in a polling booth. We must be consulted and persist in making our will known on issues of major importance such as proposals for political integration.

T&T never held a referendum on the Federation as Jamaica did. It would appear that we Trinbagonians are not to be credited with any intelligence, analytical ability or intellectualism Minister Valley-style.

In fact the T&T people/ electorate was consulted neither on Carifta (1967), Caricom (1973) nor on the ACS that turned out to be unilateral impositions. The people must be also consulted on the Free Trade of the Americas (FTAA) that is receiving increasing opposition from within the Americas including from President Chavez of Venezuela.



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