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Integration Must be Sanctioned by a Referendum
Posted: Thursday, October 16, 2008

By Stephen Kangal
October 16, 2008

PM Manning has been flirting with and has a wild and obsessive uncontrollable penchant for dabbling with political integration schemes involving Caricom countries. They are geared exclusively to promote his electoral security agenda without the requisite political mandate on this question ever being sought from and received from the electorate.

Firstly it was the pre-1991 Manning Initiative targeted on Guyana and Barbados. Post 2001 it focused on St. Vincent, Barbados and Grenada. Now it is targeted singularly on Ralph Gonzales' St. Vincent and the Grenadines that can bring nothing of value to the table. St. Vincent will be a financial and political burden on the people of T&T.

Barbados however rushed to fix its maritime boundaries with T&T thereby scuttling any future political integration developments.

The Prime Minister is reported to have said (Express Wed. 16 July, 2008, p.21) that a Team consisting of Dr. Vaughn Lewis and Dr. Cuthbert Joseph has been given a mandate "to make proposals on the best form of political integration and the best route."

Where are the people of T&T in this process? How and what are the mechanics to determine quite clearly and unambiguously that T&T wishes to join into any political union at the polity level as well as the parliamentary level since it will involve a fundamental reform of the 1976 Constitution?

The proposed Caricom ferry service is not designed to bring in the non-existent cheap Caricom food but to serve as another conduit to pour illegal Caricom immigrants into T&T to upset the ethnic political balance in favour of the PNM. These integration plans can and will contribute nothing to the welfare of the people of T&T. They will emerge as an albatross around our necks, suck blood money and threaten us with secession and spawn liberation movements Tobago-style.

Having gotten away with riding roughshod over and "gallerying" with our territorial integrity and political independence in the context of deepening Caricom and reducing our sovereignty, he now proposes a political integration with another regional state by simple three-fifths majority in Parliament. The Manning Administration has that proposed majority in the current 41 seat Parliament.

That is the expression of the ravings of a power-hungry megalomaniac who does not understand far less appreciate that the Caribbean Sea is the most potent disintegrating force in the Caribbean. Examine what 16 miles of sea-space has inflicted in widening the gulf of Tobago-Trinidad relations and the emergence of the secessionist movement.

Political integration with another state must play second fiddle to the imperative of retaining Tobago in the unitary state of T&T. The forces of disintegration are gaining ascendancy in the sister-isle having regard to the oil and gas bonanza being found off-shore Tobago and the physical infrastructure courtesy the $3bn THA annual budget.

Political integration also involves dissolution of the existing Constitution and the existing archipelagic State of T&T. It requires an amendment to Part 1 (2) the 1976 Constitution that requires a three quarters majority in the House.

But any proposed political union with St. Vincent and the Grenadines is exclusively a major political question. It can only be based on and legitimized by the conduct of a national referendum. It must also be premised on the results of General Elections in which the proposed union was an important election platform issue.

At present major and radical changes are being effected to the laws of T&T from extra-Parliamentary Caricom sources. It is as if Cabinet exercises a law creating capacity that is the sole preserve of Parliament. These relate to freedom of movement within Caricom, Caricom passports, removal of trade economic controls and centralization in COTED etc. Parliament has merely rubber-stamped these fait accompli decisions. But the CCJ failed the test.

Manning's PNM Convention speech as so many of his unilateral pronouncements was full of sound and fury but signifying nothing of substance or worthy of attention, notice and the response of the people of T&T. He is the "shop talk keeper" par excellence.

To do so will be tantamount to setting "laglee" where birds defecate or mistaking fowl sh... for egg to inject a bit of local imagery for emphasis.

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