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Antigua Labour party outlines position on CSME

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Submitted by leader of the Antigua Labour Party Lester Bird.
 
The Antigua Labour Party is fully committed to Antigua and Barbuda's membership of the Caribbean Single Market, CSM.
 
It is a fact that the ALP appointed Senators voted against Legislation in the Senate designed to implement aspects of the Single Market. In defense of the position taken by these Senators, the Antigua Labour Party as a group had not discussed the Legislation or taken a party position on it.  In the absence of a party directive, the Senators in question voted s they personally viewed the Bill before them.
 
The Antigua Labour Party has since discussed the CSM at a meeting of its Executive, and concluded that, as a party we support the creation of the CSM and Antigua and Barbuda's membership of it.
 
I must remind you that the Antigua Labour Party has always been in the forefront of Caribbean Integration as an instrument for the advancement of the people of Antigua and Barbuda and the Caribbean.
 
it was Vere Cornwall Bird, as Leader of the ALP, who joined with Errol Barrow of Barbados and Forbes Burnham of Guyana to revitalize the integration movement here in Antigua at Dickenson Bay in 1965, with the signing of the Caribbean Free Trade Agreement.
And, when in 1973, the former Progressive Labour Movement (PLM) government refused to join the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) the ALP dispatched a delegation to the Secretariat to tell the then Secretary-General, the late William Demas, that we backed the integration process fully.
 
The Antigua Labour Party was also present in Grenada in 1989 when Heads of Government issued the Grand Anse Declaration in which all CARICOM governments committed themselves to bring the Single Market into operation in the interest of each CARICOM nation and all of them collectively.
 
The ALP cannot and will not resile from what we have always argued and supported, and that is, that our nation's economic survival and the preservation of Caribbean autonomy resides in a system of integration with our Caribbean neighbours.
The alternative is to be overrun by countries, agencies and others more powerful than the resources our small country can muster.
 
Anyone who believes that Antigua and Barbuda is an island unto itself and not part of the Caribbean main, and therefore, can survive on its own is making a sad mistake.
 
Having reiterated the Labour Party's firm position on this matter, let me also say that the ALP does have reservations - not about Antigua and Barbuda's membership of the CSM - but about aspects of the legislation that caused much concern to the ALP Senators.
 
For example, the legislation just introduced by the UPP government and adopted by the majority vote of their members in both the House and the Senate, would make criminals of anyone in Antigua and Barbuda in certain circumstances.
This in our view, is going too far.
 
We agree that nationals and national entities of other CARICOM countries should have rights as our own nationals and national entities within Antigua and Barbuda. After all, Antiguans and Barbudans will enjoy the same rights in other CARICOM countries - and that is how it should be if we are creating a single economic space throughout CARICOM in which our people can grow and develop.
 
But, to make criminals of those who, from fear of uncertainty, may act injudiciously is wrong in itself. Surely, some civil remedy rather than a criminal punishment, could be put in place until the actual operation of the Single Market demonstrates that fear and uncertainty are ill-founded.
 
The Antigua Labour Party would urge the UPP government to review this law before it is sent to the Governor-General fr assent.  We are not making criminals of our people who are simply fearful.
 
Our party, the Antigua Labour Party, would work with the UPP government to review this legislation and get it right.  If the government will not work with us to review these aspects of the legislation, let me state now that when the Antigua Labour Party returns to office, we will repeal those unsavoury aspects of the legislation.
 
I repeat that the Antigua Labour Party has been and remains the party in Antigua and Barbuda, in the vanguard of Caribbean integration. We know that at one and the same time we can be committed nationals of CARICOM while remaining loyal Antiguans and Barbudans, just as at one ad the same time we can be sons and fathers, and daughters and mothers - the two things are perfectly compatible.
 
The CSM offers opportunities for our people at all levels of our society. The ALP was poised to ensure that our country benefited from those opportunities.
 
This UPP government has already wasted many of these opportunities particularly by making us uncompetitive through their high taxation and other damaging policies.
 
The Antigua Labour Party's task now is to ensure that the UPP government does not weaken our country's chances even more, and that our people do indeed benefit from the wider economic space and broader opportunities offered by the CSM.

Caribbean Politics Live is a project of Carib News Now where political parties in the Caribbean give views on issues in their homeland or other Caribbean islands. We can be contacted at caribbeanpolitics@caribnewsnow.com
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