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One Caribbean Dream Fades With Discord
Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2004

by G. F. Alleyne, Newsday TT

A once seemingly viable One Caribbean dream, embracing in addition to the core group of English-speaking Caribbean Community of Nations, Spanish, Dutch and French-speaking countries such as Santo Domingo, Cuba, Haiti and Suriname, among others, may be fading in the encroaching dark night of discord.

It now appears that the original demand of the Government of Barbados for the right of Barbadian fishermen to fish in Trinidad and Tobago waters had masked a greater intent, that of acquiring a not insubstantial portion of this country's maritime territory, with its rich exploitable reserves of crude and natural gas. In contention was the 1990 Delimitation Treaty negotiated between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago. Guyana has joined in, and reports suggest that at least two other CARICOM countries will trump and follow suit. And whether their claims have merit or not, it suggests an unfortunate ganging up of fellow CARICOM countries against Trinidad and Tobago. Perhaps the term ganging up is undiplomatic, but since the issue has become a highly emotive one, the search for more accommodating language by me clearly is not important.

Indeed, what is critical is the careful or is it careless stirring up of emotions by politicians, some eager to get their hands on what they now eagerly claim as theirs, and by others anxious not to lose any of the national patrimony not out of seeming disinterest, but with an eye, and understandably so, to the next General Election. Trinidad and Tobago from shortly after the end of slavery had embraced persons from other Caribbean islands, first because its largely untapped lands, seen as good for sugar, had attracted them. Or had prompted the United Kingdom Government, which then held several of the islands as colonies, to bring in labour from some of these islands not simply to cultivate sugar and other lands, but as a device to keep down wages. Later, indeed much later, and particularly at the turn of the last century, the attraction would have been the relatively new oil industry. Gradually, some of the islanders would come because of the relative freedom from crippling British economic and social domination, and in some cases the frightening and arrogant grip of the Church on the education system had forced many teachers to migrate.

My father had come to Trinidad in 1922, settling in San Fernando. The courtesy, charm and friendliness of San Fernandians had reminded him a great deal of St Phillip, Barbados, where he was born and had spent his childhood and as a young adult. My mother's parents had been Barbadians, and she had often spoken of her grandfather and his home in Fontabelle. I grew to love the Barbados projected by my parents, and when I first visited there in 1948 I fell in love with it, its friendly people, this time from the eye of the beholder. Last week I saw Barbadians, admittedly a few, snarling their disapproval of Trinidad and Tobago's not being happy with Barbadian fishermen, aided and abetted by some politicians, believing that they had every right to fish in Trinidad and Tobago waters. Somehow, perhaps encouraged by the words of some politicians, who, perhaps unintentionally, had warped and sullied their minds, they were emotionally anti Trinbagonian.

Sadly, the anti Trinidad and Tobago cancer has spread to citizens of other CARICOM Member States, countries not unlike Barbados, whose tourism and/or banana dependent economies had been badly hurt by the fall-off in the United States economy. The fall-off had begun in the first quarter of 2000, and been hastened by the destruction of the World Trade Centre. There had been an abruptly sharp decline in visitors from the United States and restrictions placed by the US on agricultural imports, which had adversely affected the Eastern Caribbean. In turn, the loss of jobs by so many Caribbean nationals resident in the United States, following on September 11, meant a crucial loss of remittances. I suspect that while Barbados politicians may have convinced themselves that they have a strong case for our oil-bearing and natural gas yielding maritime territory, the country may be in the grip of serious economic problems. So serious that the Government of Barbados may be willing to risk the fracturing of CARICOM and with it the Caribbean dream. And while the politicians posture in whichever the Island State, what has been their response to the belittling, the humiliating of Caribbean people when they visit the world's latest Imperial power? But I shall continue to visit Barbados where my eldest sister and the majority of my relatives live, and so many of the friends I had met a long, long time ago.

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