We are into politically trying times
By Lloyd Noel
Lloyd Noel is a former Attorney General and prominent attorney
Our Political history in the Commonwealth Caribbean, since the Independence
fever started to spread its heat in 1962 - after Jamaica abandoned the West Indies Federation (1958-1962) and went Independent,
and Trinidad and Tobago soon got infected and followed suit - has been loaded and in-undated with promises, and promises,
and more promises.
And right up to to-day - forty-four years thereafter - the biggest legacy we seem to have inherited,
from taking the independence route and turning our backs on our Colonial Masters in England, is still promises and more promises
that seldom materialise.
And although we seemed to have recognised the empty promises over the decades, and our people
up and down the Islands have suffered tremendously as a result thereof - we, nevertheless, appear to be gluttons for punishment
and keep on taking the licks year after year after year.
Some strides have been made over the years, in our attempt to
overcome the failure of the Federation, because all the players on centre stage all through the years - are agreeable that
we must find a way to bring our mini economies, relatively speaking, into closer unity and integration to be able to survive
in the global madness that now exist Worldwide.
The CARICOM model, and the OECS version over the past Twenty-five years,
have been two ways that have stood the test of time. And whether by design, or pure co-incidence at this point in time, two
new concepts are now emerging on the Regional and sub-Regional horizon involving both models - that would need very careful
consideration and quite selfish application - as those of the OECS grouping, who are classified as the (LDCs) Less Developed
Countries, prepare to take the final step, towards joining the new model of the amended or revised Treaty of Chaguaramas -
formerly CARICOM - now known as the (CSM(E) Caribbean Single Market and Economy, and its Court of Arbitration the (CCJ) Caribbean
Court of Justice.
Both the CSME and the CCJ are breaking brand new grounds, in our Caribbean Economic Culture and way
of life for the future. And in addition thereto, the CCJ is carded to take an even bolder step, and a quantum leap away from
our long-standing allegiance to our Colonial Legal Masters in England.
But as those LDCs ponder their fate, and make other
Legal amendments to their local Laws - to be able to accommodate the new measures embedded in the CSME and the CCJ - we are
getting and hearing some very conflicting statements from many in authority, and others with experience and knowledge of the
Caribbean history and its people’s concerns.
Because of the wide gap between the so-called MDCs and the LDCs - from
the points of view of population, economic development, geographical size, and natural wealth among others - the concepts
of a Single Market and Economic Union, and Free Trading and movement of people throughout the Caribbean States, are loaded
against the LDCs.
To assist in some small measure, in cushioning the imbalance that would naturally result from the economic
Union and free trading - the planners agreed on establishing a Regional Development Fund (RDF), to enable the LDCs to access
funding for Projects to make them more competitive.
Needless to say, that device was not aggressively pursued in the build
up to the CSM(E) in-auguration, on the one hand; and on the other hand, the LDCs Leaders did not seek to ensure that the RDF
was in place, or on its way, before signing. And by the time they began to realise that their limited and un-certain Economic
bases would be swamped by the Big Four MDCs - the die was already cast.
Their only fall back, therefore, was to ask for
more time while waiting on that RDF to become a reality.
Last week, in Barbados I think the gathering was, I heard Sir
Ronald Sanders - a very able Caribbean personality - saying that those LDCs should not be waiting for the RDF to materialise,
but should come fully on board the CSM(E) by the end of June (next month) as was promised.
He argued that the initial
attempts to get outside help failed, and except for Trinidad and Tobago the other MDCs do not have the means to fund the Project.
He did not say where the means would come from, once the LDCs have taken the final plunge; but as with our ancient political
heritage since Independence, the impression he conveyed was that those LDCs should rely on Promises.
I totally disagree
with that position, and I sincerely hope those LDC Leaders do not fall for it. So many things in the Global Market place are
already on the negative side of the LDCs shopping list - it would be sheer madness to deliberately add another that is based
solely on promises and more promises.
And whether it is from festering frustration, coming through the System and settling
on those in the forefront of the hurriedly packaged integration movement of the Caribbean - I also heard the CCJ President,
Justice Michael de la Bastide of Trinidad and Tobago, in a lecture in Jamaica, lambasing the Privy Council Judges in England,
and castigating CARICOM Leaders (except Barbados & Guyana) for not jumping into the turbulent waters of the CCJ’s
Final Appellate Court jurisdiction, and abolishing the Privy Council.
Somebody should calmly take the CCJ President by
the hand, and lead him back to Port-of-Spain in his native Trinidad and Tobago, and put before him the chaos, confusion, calamity,
and political madness, that now exist between his own political overlord, and the Chief Justice of a supposedly Independent
Judiciary, in our most prosperous member State of the CSME.
I submit, with all due respect to the Learned President -
who also had his day with local politicians as Chief Justice - that if the Trinidad model and example is anything to go by,
for our future freedom and protection and human rights under the rule of law - then Caribbean people as a whole, would be
very well advised to hold on to the Privy Council in London for a very long time to come, while our tin-god-politicians grow
up and mature and come of age.
Those politicians are just not ready yet, and the general fear is that a Final Appellate
CCJ would make them even worse - when they are in total control, with no truly independent and impartial Institution to overlook
their intrusions, and correct their grave and revengeful political blunders.
But to remind our Caribbean people about
where we are to-day, and where we are hoping to go, or where we are heading for in the times ahead - two news reports in “Carib
News Now” on the Internet, on the 18th and 19th May, should supply some useful information in the context of both the
CSME and the CCJ, on the basis of the foregoing commentary.
On the 18th May it was reported, that at the Ceremonial hoisting
of the first OECS flag, which will mark the 25th Anniversary of the Treaty of Basseterre on the 21st June, 2006, the new “OECS
Economic Union Treaty” was also unveiled for signing on the said 21st June, 2006.
And the very next day, 19th May,
coming out of Port-of-Spain in Trinidad and Tobago, was a report that the Police had raided the Chambers of the Chief Justice
of Trinidad and Tobago on the day before, and took away a bag of documents.
The Chief Justice, who was out of the Country
at the time, had alleged that it is a political plot to force him out of office. So the judicial saga continues between the
Political Executive and the Judiciary.
Now if that is how a son of the soil, holding the highest Judicial Office, is being
treated in his own hometown - what can be expected when it is a foreign Judge, in the CCJ Head Quarters in Port-of-Spain,
with whom the powers-that-be do not agree?
And more especially so, because the Judges of the CCJ and the Court - are not
protected under the Constitution of any CARICOM State - so that any Government can opt out of the CCJ by merely giving Notice
to take effect in three to five years.
As for the new “OECS Economic Union Treaty,” to be signed (a Declaration
of Intent) by the OECS Heads during their 43rd Meeting in St. Kitts next month - at least that shows that the Heads and their
Advisors are not rushing willy-nilly into the other aspect of the (CSM)..“E” of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas,
due to come on steam in 2008.
In the OECS we have the strongest currency in the CARICOM States, the ECC dollars. I do
not know what currency the new CSME System is planning to adopt; but judging from what now obtains in Trinidad and Tobago,
Guyana and Jamaica with their currency, the OECS Heads would be ill-advised to abandon our secured ECC dollars to join those.
The Eight States that now comprise the OECS have remained together for the past Twenty-five years and have consolidated
many aspects of their Union over the years. And while we do not have the Economic power-base of the MDCs - especially after
the WTO Rulings on Sugar, Bananas and Agriculture products in general, and the “Ivan” devastation of the Grenada
Nutmeg Industry - we have shown patriotism in the Union, and our stability is second to none of the MDCs; we must therefore
continue to stick together, and whatever it is decided to become a part of, we must do so as a United Group under the OECS
As for depending on those empty promises that never seem to materialise - I sincerley trust that our OECS Leaders
would not fall for those - but insist on the RDF coming on stream, before taking the final plunge into the uncertain waters
of the CSM(E); as well as working out a more dependable system for free movement of Nationals among the States, before agreeing
to the selected few groups that would clearly be to our dis-advantage as things now stand.
It would be downright madness
to simply accept the free movement of nationals from the MDCs - just because they are holding a Certificate of qualification
to enter - in the light of the un-controlled level of criminal activities in those States, and the few, but increasing , instances
of those nationals exploits in our midst already. As the old folks used to say - “it is much better to be safe than
to be sorry; and once the stable door is opened you cannot stop the bolting horses.”
In all the prevailing circumstances,
I would answer the headline question by saying - we are waiting on those promises to materialise and be implemented, before
taking that final step that could put our people at serious dis-advantages - in the short, medium, and long term.