July 07, 2008

Hang Together or Hang Separately

We must Hang Together - or Separately
Social Commentary
Source: The Democrat Newspaper - St Kitts & Nevis
July 7, 2008

We blindly repeat the quotes “Unity is Strength”, and “United we stand, divided we fall” but it is never clear that we really believe them enough to walk the walk despite how .often we talk the talk.

By the time this article is printed, the CARICOM SUMMIT would have ended and we hope that apart from the eloquent ‘lippy lippy’ we hear speakers giving there, that we will see action plans being implemented quickly to unify and strengthen this organization in order to combat the common problems which could ‘hang’ each island separately.

Why does TEAMWORK seem to be a dying art – both on the local and regional levels? Is it that we are so insecure that ego-bloating and insular sovereignty must be pushed ahead of long term security to boost and maintain our stranglehold on power. The bottom line is that politicians who cannot practice the tenets of UNITY at home cannot be expected to understand it on a regional level either.

This why just two weeks ago Prime Minister Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines could see nothing wrong in creating more division in CARICOM by openly calling it a “ramshackle political apparatus”.

"It is most doubtful that we would see in CARICOM an integrated judiciary as in the OECS, or an enhanced institutionalised ''supranationality'' in political decision-making which is required to transform a ramshackle political-administrative apparatus in CARICOM into a purposive, matching vehicle correspondingly, for the Single Economy venture . . . ." Gonsalves said.

This will not mend fences or promote the spirit of working together to solve common challenges in the region. In the same way, some prime ministers see nothing wrong in invading the internal boundaries of a neighbouring state to campaign on behalf of another prime minister and call the opposition leaders insulting names.

This “I can do as I like’ attitude creeps right into CARICOM decision making. So Caribbean leaders still cannot “hang together” on matters like “Cruise Passenger taxing”, “LIAT financing”, “the Caribbean Court of Justice”, and the “One-China Policy”. They drag their feet on CSME, do not agree on adopting CAPE exams (Dominica), and opt out of whaling agreements. Even at this Summit this week, there is talk that Guyana will not sign on to the EPA agreement and that Tourism ministers are finding it hard to see beyond their own white sand beaches.

And while they will seek to create a single economic space in CSME, they will not even come close to adopting the common OECS currency which has proven to be stronger and more stable than other regional currencies (with the possible exception of Barbados)

So whither CARICOM? What exactly are we clinging to? How exactly is Secretary-General Carrington to forge unity among these “own way” sovereign states?

Caribbean scholar and recent Head of ACS, Professor Norman Girvan, said recently, "Our Community leaders are still clinging to an insular sovereignty that perpetuates failure to strengthen the region''s integration movement by an effective system of governance.”


If we cannot unite for the good of our country or region, what are the alternatives? Surely we cannot dump our problems, for this would be like taking on a suicidal attitude. CARICOM is great at discussing and delegating and the latter is based on the premise that each country can take on a manageable slice of problem solving. Internally, when governments fail to join with Opposition on finding solutions ESPECIALLY ON CRIME, they can at least delegate areas to civic-minded groups. Such an act can only redound to the benefit of all. Just recently a regional police officer was speaking of the areas in which action needs to be taken simultaneously for the elimination of gangs. They are:
PREVENTION – keeping children out
INTERVENTION – stopping it; providing alternatives
SUPPRESSION – more patrols; searches; law enforcement
RE-ENTRY – rehabilitation of offenders into society

Finally, since the murder of the Head of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), Douglas Chambers in late June, one outraged writer to the Jamaica Gleaner Newspaper has offered suggestions to the Prime Minister. We would do well to listen to all suggestions to break the circle of this escalation of crime that threatens to engulf us. Here are his suggestions:

ENOUGH! Prime Minister, Opposition leader, Security minister, Opposition spokesman on Security, Commissioner of Police and Army Chief, draw the line on the platitudes after each murder and come on TV, radio and in the printed press and speak openly and loudly in one voice. ENOUGH!

Prime minister, you need to do a number of unprecedented things NOW.

1. Speak to the nation with the aforementioned persons around you. Use the creativity shown by advertising firms during elections to have a clear, powerful message made and have the TV stations rebroadcast this at their expense in the national interest every day with the same frequency and intensity when the election messages were bombarding us.
2. Co-opt the DJs sound system owners, discos to create voice-overs with strong, powerful street messages played at every session as a rule.
3. Order radio stations to stop playing all gun-related garbage now and anyone promoting ''informer fe dead'' must be treated as a criminal and charged for inciting murder.
4. Invite churches, service clubs, schools, businesses to dedicate a half day per month to do community service work to spread the message.

We need to ‘hang together’ as a country and as a region, or we shall ‘hang separately’.

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