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After Petrocaribe & CSME -We had Emily

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Law & Politics with Lloyd Noel
When we look at the World situation as it affects us in the Caribbean Region today, one cannot help feeling or thinking that something is really missing among the structures in place to guide and see us through it all.
In terms of Globalisation and all that has to offer, Terrorism and its creeping closeness to our shores and doorsteps - and the fact that it has a frightening link to Religion and its underlying beliefs, our Cricket impasse, integration and so-called unification of our peoples by our politicians - all these and those were among the many items recently discussed at the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting (HOG) in St. Lucia.
From those discussions, a very brief Communique was published by the secretariat - of the decisions taken for the immediate future and the way ahead.
Recalling the many news items that made headlines from the opening of the meeting, and reading through the Communique - which contained more from what was not said than what was said - one gets the distinct impression that those Heads of Governments seem to be only reacting in an ad hoc (special) manner as pit falls crop up, and not because they had even considered those hitches, never mind planned for them by set policies.
The PetroCaribe issue surfaced only a couple weeks before the Heads met in Castries - but that was time enough for them to look behind the curtain, to truly discover where exactly Chavez was coming from. And also to advise and update themselves on the effect the scheme will have on Trinidad and Tobago; and as Leaders of their respective Countries, they were duty bound to anticipate and expect Prime Minister Manning to respond the way he did, and to foresee the effect that kind of behaviour would have on the integration and hoped for unification movement in the Region.
The way some of those Heads reacted to Prime Minister Manning’s outbursts, except for Prime Minister Keith Mitchell and Ralph Gonzalves of Grenada and St. Vincent respectively, they sent out the distinct message or signal, that all the ole talk about integration and common or single Market and Economy - were just that.
And when it comes down to getting a little handout, or anything cheap was dangled before their eyes - they were prepared to resort to their selfish agendas, and leave the integration theme in limbo.
The next very pressing and current issue that must be number one on those HOGs Agenda, was the CSM(E) - with or without the “Economy” part.
The Bahamas delegation made it crystal clear, that Bahamas had mandated them to finally withdraw even their tacit approval of the proposed Single Market. No mention was made of the CCJ, but that part was never really on the Cards for the Bahamas, so the withdrawal from the one automatically put the other to rest once and for all times.
Although only the Bahamas was brave enough, and that was mainly because of pressure from its people at home over the previous months, all the OECS Heads have very serious mis-givings about the benefits, if any, that will accrue to their States and people from the proposed CSME.
The St. Vincent Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonzalves, and the Grenada Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell, have made more than passing comments about the obvious imbalance that would result from a Single Market.
And the strange irony was raising its ugly head, even in the face of the selfish treatment meted out to Trinidad and Tobago. All the HOGs are clear on the reality, that Trinidad and Tobago would benefit more than any other CARICOM State from the CSME.
And with no shame or remorse they are all looking to the self-same Manning and his Government to do more than most to correct that imbalance.
Trinidad and Tobago is way ahead of all the other States, in providing manufactured goods and services in a whole range of areas that very few, if any, can compete with.
One built in assistance or safe guard, if it can be called that, is the “Regional Development Fund” that is provided for in the Revised Treaty.
But the $100 M (U.S.) Dollars question remains hanging over the implementation of the CSME commencement dated - and that is where would the Fund’s financial input come from?
With no shame as usual, many are looking to Trinidad and Tobago to provide a large chunk of that fund, because none of the other three MDCs have the capacity to provide any such finance.
On the question of sourcing funds on the International Market - especially among the G8 Countries, whose Heads were meeting in Scotland while the HOGs were in St. Lucia - it was to be noted that while those G8 Heads were making some US$50 Billions available to under-developed Countries particularly in Africa - none of the CARICOM States was even mentioned by those G8 Heads for any financial assistance.
And some of the LDCs, in particular the OECS ones, are making it fairly clear that without such a fund to cushion the inequalities, they cannot come on board for January, 2006, or any other time for that matter.
The CSME’s main promoter, and the only State now ready to get the new Treaty on the road is Barbados, and its Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, is scheduled to visit all the uncertain States to try and whip up support and enthusiasm.
But without the where withal to finance the RDF, his visits are doomed to fail or will have very little, if any, impact.
A very strange omission, from the CARICOM’s Statement at the end of their meeting, was the total absence of the “CCJ” which was inaugurated in Trinidad and Tobago in April this year with Six Judges, including the President Mr. Michael De LaBastide, already appointed.
But an area that received a lot of attention was Crime/Security/Terrorism  - especially as the London bombings took place while the HOGs were sitting.
And the significance of that attention was highlighted days afterwards - when the explosion in the dustbin on Frederick Street in Port-of-Spain rocked Trinidad and Tobago and injured a number of persons.
And although it was not raised as such in the Sessions of those HOGs, at least not in their statement, but the whole question of crime and criminals free movement in CARICOM - under the CSME - are causing serious concerns to many in the Region.
And that is not misplaced, when one looks at the rate of growth of serious criminal activities in the same Trinidad and Tobago on the one hand, and the already established and daily escalating Murder rate in Jamaica, on the other.
In other words, without getting any benefits, and not having the means to compete with the Big Four and especially Trinidad and Tobago, those vulnerable little OECS Islands would be in Serious straits from social problems - not the least of which is new “experts” in criminal activities from those more developed States.
All the newcomers under the free movement regime need to have - is a skills Certificate issued by a member State other than the receiving State, and they cannot be stopped from entering any State and starting to work immediately.
With all due respect to Prime Minister Owen Arthur and his high enthusiasm for the CSME, I whole heartedly agree with Prime Minister Perry Christie’s Bahamian position on the CSME, and I believe that our own Prime Minister and his Government, as well as the other OECS Prime Ministers, should seriously review their positions.
And so we moved from the HOGs meeting in St. Lucia, Bombings in London and Port-of-Spain and suspected Terrorists involvement from further afield - to our second Hurricane in Grenada, “Emily” visiting just over Ten months (July 13th) since “Ivan.”
Although the weather experts were saying that Emily was just a Tropical Storm, and infact the warning was down-graded accordingly, many thousands would swear that what we got was nearer a Category Two Hurricane than any Storm. And the pitch dark night made the conditions much worse, and the heavy and protracted rainfall even more so.
Those who suffered from Ivan, many of them, suffered again, and those who escaped Ivan got their share from Emily. And even where the roof or galvanize did not move, the heavy rains found ways to pass through or around and drenched households belongings causing very heavy losses.
There was no doubt, that people generally took the Emily warnings much more seriously and that made a lot of difference, because they were prepared.
The security was in full control by the Police, and the State of Emergency and Curfew in advance facilitated that process and kept things and culprits in check.
The Utility Services were not nearly as badly damaged as in Ivan - but they were also better prepared, and by two days afterwards most were back in business and up and running.
Despite all the preparedness and lesser damage, there is absolutely no doubt that thousands are again in dire need of financial assistance - in addition to those who had not even started to repair the Ivan devastation.
The farmers who had got into Banana plantation, in areas where the Nutmeg trees were mainly uprooted, they again took a severe beating from the Emily winds that were much stronger in the higher part of the Island; and even the recently planted corn and peas, from the traditional Corpus Christi planting season, they also took a hammering and were flattened in many areas.
The Chantimelle and St. Patrick’s area generally, which were spared the ravages of Ivan - they suffered badly from Emily, as well as Carriacou and Petite Martinique, from reports coming out of the Sister Isles.
People generally were dead scared from the time the warning was given, and that did not really change even when it was downgraded on the afternoon of the 13th.
And unlike pre-Ivan (day before) when young people were treating the Warning as a big joke - this time I met quite few who were expressing real fear the day before Emily; and with the talk of more to come soon, they are already afraid in advance - so they are waking up.
The Prime Minister has announced that Cabinet had declared the Country to be in of State of Disaster and appealing for international aid. How fruitful that will be only time will tell, since there are loads of question marks still hanging over the generous assistance we received after Ivan - that are not properly accounted for up to now.
And while we were awaiting “Emily,” and still waiting on reports of the tremendous assistance the Prime Minister and his delegation to Beijing received from Red China - we got news from the U.S.A., that David Marchant had submitted a Statement to the Commission of Inquiry into the Brief Case saga from Switzerland.
In fact the Statement was published on the Internet for public information, and Timothy Bass has also indicated that he too is willing to give Evidence.
Both those witnesses have made it clear, that they are not prepared or willing to come to Grenada - so that must mean that if the Commissioner is genuinely interested in getting to the truth, or as near to it as possible, then he must ensure that the funds and facilities are made available for him to travel to the U.S.A. to take those two witnesses verbatim statements.
As far as the Prime Minister is concerned I have heard nothing about him providing a statement to the Commission.
So the scene on the Commission situation is now on hold - but the venue at the Trade Centre has not been damaged, so accommodation is not in issue.
The Leader of the Opposition’s challenge, against the Commissioner’s Ruling to deny him audience at the Inquiry, is still awaiting a date for hearing by the High Court.
All over the Tri-Island State people are busily trying to cover up damaged roofs as best they could - and drying out soaked -everything, as the sun since Emily has been very hot.
In our state of need at this time, I am of the considered opinion that Carnival 2005 should be postponed until next year - while we concentrate on helping ourselves, because the Aid would not be as available as after Ivan. Food for thought am sure.
Carib News Now is dedicated to providing news and daily updates to its customers. Now, Caribbean people where ever you maybe have an opportunity to let your voices be heard as well as share your experiences with the world. E-Mail: editor@caribnewsnow.com
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