BASSETERRE, St. Kitts –The need for unity and the urgency of stamping out all forms of division, including political tribalism on a national and regional level has been emphasised by Sir Charles Michael Dennis Byron, a legal luminary and man of many accomplishments in the judicial field for 54 years.
Some of Sir Dennis’s notable accomplishments include being a Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court from 1996-2006; President of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda from 2007-2011; and President of the Caribbean Court of Justice from 2011-2018.
Sir Dennis addressed hundreds of attendees during the Jan 5 Prime Minister’s Gala hosted by Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort Ballroom.
“The historical quest for unity has been a long and often fitful struggle to give meaningful substance to the underlying desire of our people to tap into our potential and come together towards a common purpose,” Sir Dennis said. ‘Caribbean unity has been a historical struggle since slavery to the West Indies Federation (1958-62) to Independence; and the signing of many regional treaties that established the Caribbean Free Trade Association, Caribbean Community, the Caribbean Single Market and the Economy; the Caribbean Court of Justice; and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.
“For those who think that it is so difficult for us to unite as a people and region, let us not forget that CARICOM is one of the longest surviving integration movements throughout the developing world,” Sir Dennis said.
He called for a deeper unity at the national and regional level with respect to improving democracy, although he highlighted that “the Commonwealth Caribbean has a high incidence of political stability and a solid record of respect for democratic principles.
“Elections are not merely a contest of visions and policies, but an opportunity to improve the well-being of all citizens,” Sir Denis said. “This latter objective is not always obvious because of the extreme tribalism of some political parties, where their narrow and self – interested agendas take precedence over the interest of citizens in general.”
He suggested that an antidote to political tribalism is the coming together of various political groupings but that this requires “compromise rather than factionalism” and “must therefore be the modus operandi of successful coalitions.
“Even in domestic politics the idea of unity and merging of various political groupings seem to provide an antidote to this tribalism,” Sir Dennis said. “Coalition formation or building is a process of organizing parties collectively in pursuit of a common goal. At the heart of any unity-driven political coalition is the central concept of good governance. As a necessary component of good governance, the concept of accountability emphasizes the need for leadership to be answerable for its stewardship, thus strengthening good governance and empowering stakeholders and beneficiaries alike.”
Sir Dennis referred to the history of several coalition governments in the region, including the current tripartite, People’s Action Movement, Concerned Citizens Movement, People’s Labour Party which comprise the Dr. Harris-led Team Unity Administration.
He reiterated that “the success of Unity is that it only works with compromise and accountability so that in the end the concept is greater than the individuals who comprise it.
“Coming home to St. Kitts and Nevis: As you all know, in the February 2015 national elections, Team Unity, a coalition of three parties, defeated the 20-year reign in government of the St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party,” Sir Dennis concluded. “It has been suggested that ‘Team Unity’ was birthed out of the reality that St. Kitts and Nevis had become severely divided by politics. This is a belief that exists in countries throughout the region – a belief that political tribalism has become rampant and has failed to create better conditions for our region’s people.”