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Caricomesse and Political Unification
Posted: Saturday, February 22, 2003


The traditional difficulties hitherto demonstrated by our Honourable Prime Minister Mr. Patrick Manning to respond to and effectively preside over the challenging daily vagaries of our domestic affairs with the requisite confidence and quiet efficiency encroached on the conduct of our sub-regional foreign relations at the recently concluded 14th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the CHOG Conference.

In all honesty I felt that T&T's Caricom standing/image was unnecessarily tarnished from careless diplomacy, lack of pre-planning consultations, premature tabling of the issue of political unification on the agenda and regrettably by a voluminous UWI non-paper.

Was there not clear, unambiguous evidence since the recent Cuban visit that PM Patterson of Jamaica was not interested in participating in any discussions on potential Caribbean political unification? After all the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), the precursor to political unification was not expected to come into force and effect until 2005, the same date as the FTAA. Time was not of the essence.

The minimum one expected from the GORTT was the conduct of the necessary round-robin consultations to determine the political feasibility of tabling the issue and not imposing a fait accompli. Or was PM Manning using the expected negative Caricom riposte on political unification to justify and accelerate his planned, almost obsessive mini-Federation with St.Vincent or " any other Caricom state" for which he has no mandate hitherto to prosecute from Trinbagonians. What are the benefits of graduating from economic (CSME) to political unification (Caribbean Union) surrounded by a disintegrative Caribbean Sea? One needs to conduct a sociological study of the impact of the Caribbean Sea to assess the feasibility of political unification since the Sea places so many unbridgeable hurdles in sustainable long- term political unification.

As a Trini to the bone I was palpably embarrassed seeing the TV images of two senior Caricom Prime Ministers, notably Patterson and Arthur, scheduling their own media conference and making patently undiplomatic and uncomplimentary remarks on T&T' s virtual non- proposal for political unification (the notorious UWI Non- Paper).

PM Manning and his advisers must not shirk from their duty to take pre-emptive action to insulate and safeguard Trinbagonians from exposure to Caricomesse and insults.

To hear PM Patterson describe T&T's political unification proposal as a "… no-ball" from which he was not going to be caught out was undiplomatic posturing. What was worse was hearing PM Arthur of Barbados impute that the unification initiative was a "…song that has an enchanting melody but no lyrics".

No opportunity should have been given for these Prime Ministers to borrow imageries drawn from two areas of national successes to lambaste us while enjoying our diplomatic hospitality. Are we not in a Carnival season witnessing a rich harvest of soca/ chutney in which both sweet melodies and lyrics are in full flight? Have not Ganga's men peaked without no balls with two successive outright victories and first innings points against India B?

In a very sarcastic vein PM Patterson found the Manning's unification proposal such a compellingly beneficial move for Caricom that he was willing to act as a facilitator/vector but not as a participant. For Jamaica, understandably so, a "community of sovereign states" (CSME) was its integration limit. On the other hand the Barbados delegation submitted its own paper designed to take precedence over the UWI paper.

In fact I concluded that PM's Arthur and Patterson were trying to out do each other in their common agenda to denigrate the Manning Initiative III.

Is there more in the Caricom mortar that the proverbial pestle? Is Mr Manning being regarded as being relatively too junior to be assuming leadership on deepening the integration process and upstaging his seniors such as PM Owen Arthur? Is Mr. Manning earning the respect of his Caricom Prime Ministerial colleagues?

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