By Lesroy W. Williams Observer Reporter
” (Basseterre, St. Kitts) – Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning, said that the much discussed sub-regional grouping of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States countries and Trinidad and Tobago forming a political and economic alliance can only compliment the aspirations and aims of the Caribbean Community CARICOM. Manning was on his second trip to St. Kitts on Oct. 23 to discuss the OECS/Trinidad and Tobago union with OECS Heads. Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Denzil Douglas, chaired the meeting in the absence of the OECS Chairman, Tillman Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada and the Grenadines. Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Stephenson King, Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Sir Dwight Venner, Former Prime Minister of St.Lucia and one-time Director General of the OECS, Dr. Vaughn Lewis, also attended the meeting. “It is seen by the rest of the Caribbean countries as complimentary to the regional integration process on which we have all embarked and it is something that they have welcomed. In fact, almost all of them saw it as a very significant move in the right direction,” Manning said. Earlier this year, Manning met with CARICOM Heads in an effort to seek support and get feedback about the proposed economic and political union between OECS and his oil- rich twin-island republic. At a mini-summit in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, on August 14, Manning met with St. Vincent and the Grenadine’s Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, St. Lucia’s Prime Minister, Stephenson King, Grenada’s Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas and the foreign ministers of Guyana and Barbados. At this summit, a joint declaration was signed by King, Thomas, Gonsalves and Manning to establish a framework for closer cooperation by forming a political and economic union among them. The four Prime Ministers of the joint declaration said that the union was not designed to undermine the single market or economic cohesion established by the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which governs the 15-member CARICOM grouping. It is not Manning’s first attempt at such a union. In 1992, Manning was working for closer cooperation with Barbados and Guyana in order to form a political union without prejudice to the CARICOM states but the attempt failed. “Being one of the parties to the declaration which was signed in Trinidad and Tobago, two months ago, I really do not see it affecting the aims, aspirations and objectives of CARICOM,” Prime Minister King said. “It will bolster the overall intention of regional integration.” “The initiative is to continue to add concentric circles until we have achieved the ultimate goal of the people of the region and I think with this (OECS/T&T Union) it will simply bolster our efforts, our initiatives, and our vision and prepare us for the broader picture down the road at this time,” King said. Sir Dwight Venner of the ECCB thinks that an economic and political union among OECS countries and Trinidad and Tobago is a good one at this time given the global financial crisis. “The OECS countries have managed to come to a state of integration which is much harder than the rest of CARICOM to do,” Sir Venner said. The OECS states already share a common currency, a Central Bank, a stock exchange, a judiciary and several other institutions. Trinidad and Tobago, with its oil revenues and strong industrial base, is the region’s economic powerhouse. Many CARICOM heads think that CARICOM is moving at a snail’s pace with respect to the regional integration process and that it has failed to deliver a clear process for governance of decision-making. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St.Vincent and the Grenadines is one such person who feels that CARICOM has failed to deliver. After 35 years, CARICOM remains a “ramshackle political-administrative apparatus that allows several of its member sates to “jealously guard a vaunted and pristine sovereignty,” Dr. Gonsalves said. One Prime Minister thinks that the new proposed alliance between the OECS/Trinidad and Tobago could fracture CARICOM. Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has called for discussions at the highest level of CARICOM to discuss the new alliance, which he thinks could possibly change the structure of CARICOM, which is pursuing integration under the Caribbean Single Market and Economy” model and stymie the integration process. Jamaica pulled out of the West Indies Federation of 1962 leading to the “famous mathematical equation” that one from ten leaves nought, that the then Premier of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Eric Williams said. The motto of the short-lived West Indies Federation was “To dwell together in unity.” The expressed intention of the Federation was to create a political unit that would become independent from Britain as a single state. However, before that could happen, the Federation collapsed and was doomed due to internal political squabbling among the provinces. The Federation never achieved full sovereignty, either as a Commonwealth realm or as a republic within the Commonwealth. Since the collapse of the West Indies Federation over 45 years ago, there has been a great struggle for regional integration. Caribbean leaders have labored long and hard for political unity, sometimes to no avail. From CARICOM to the CSME; from the EPA to OECS/T&T Union, Caribbean leaders pine for the unity that other regions such as the European Union enjoy. Great ambitions have sometimes amounted to very little. “”Everybody says CARICOM you taking too long; after all you taking as long as death to do this, so we can’t wait to die, we have to do this now and so Trinidad and Tobago and the OECS have seized the moment and they have said let us show CARICOM how to do it, because we don’t have the petty little things here and there to stop us’there is political will now,” Prime Minister Douglas said at his monthly press conference on October 29. Professor Vaughn Lewis, who is presently Professor and Senior Lecturer in International Relations at UWI (St. Augustine Campus), as well as Dr. Cuthbert Joseph, have been commissioned by the leaders to prepare a study in the modalities or steps to be taken to achieve their union. Manning has said that until such a report is received it would be premature to talk about the exact form that the economic and political union will take between his country and the OECS body. The OECS countries hope to achieve economic union among themselves by 2009. Trinidad and Tobago intend to integrate its economy with that of the OECS, two years later, by 2011. In 2013, appropriate political integration between Trinidad and Tobago and the OECS countries is hoped to be achieved.
Caribbean Heads Discuss Closer Ties
By Lesroy W. Williams Observer Reporter