September 02, 2008

Trinidad's PM pushes for Union with OECS

Mr Manning's push for a political union
Source: Jamaica Observer
Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A few weeks ago Professor Vaughan Lewis, a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of the West Indies' St Augustine campus, advised member countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to move out of their comfort zone and find new partners and arrangements in order to survive in the present global environment.

The Caribbean Media Corporation reported Professor Lewis as saying that it was becoming increasingly clear that the eastern Caribbean islands could no longer stand on their own in light of the economic, security and transportation challenges facing them.

Professor Lewis' advice was no doubt influenced by his assignment from the governments of St Lucia, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago to prepare a study - in collaboration with Trinidad and Tobago diplomat Dr Cuthbert Joseph - on a possible political union among these countries.

In an apparent effort to bolster this proposed union, Prime Minister Patrick Manning has committed Trinidad & Tobago to joining the OECS by 2011 which, itself, raises questions.
As far as we are aware, Mr Manning has no mandate from the people of his country to include Trinidad & Tobago in any such arrangement.

In fact, Mr Manning, we are told, did not place the idea of a political union or OECS membership on his platform in the last election and as such is now being flayed in his country for what appears to be a personal adventure, the structure of which he is yet to share with his country.

Having not consulted his employers, Mr Manning, we believe, may find it difficult to convince the people of Trinidad and Tobago to give up their currency for the Eastern Caribbean dollar and subject themselves to the OECS' judicial system, as well as any other arrangement required for OECS membership.

But Mr Manning's larger challenge in forging a political union will lie in the inability of the region's leaders to deliver on some of the co-operation agreements made in previous years, a point that was clearly highlighted by senior Caribbean journalist Mr Rickey Singh in his Sunday Observer column this week.

Mr Singh pointed to the fact that Caribbean Community leaders have not been able to get their act together to advance arrangements for a Caribbean Single Market and Economy by 2015.

He also drew attention to the reality that, except for Barbados and Guyana, Caricom member states have failed to abolish the Privy Council in preference for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as their court of last resort, even as they spend taxpayers' money to keep the CCJ functional.

That failure has resulted in even more scepticism of Prime Minister Manning's initiative, given that the CCJ sits in Port-of-Spain.

Added Mr Singh: "The region's people are being kept largely in the dark about the defaults by politicians and technocrats that have resulted, to date, in delivering only about one-third of approximately 330 of the required "implementation actions" to make a reality of the single economy."

Given that scenario, probably Mr Manning and his counterparts in St Lucia, Grenada, and St Vincent and the Grenadines would do better to expend their energies on strengthening Caricom as a viable integration movement that can better serve and protect the interests of the region's peoples.

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