Editorial: Unity and integration

We have all heard what happened at the Thirty-Eighth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) which took place in Grenada earlier this month under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Grenada Dr Rt Hon Keith Mitchell. To make a long story short, PM Mitchell made some opening remarks and our Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, left the next day.

The perception, by some, is that PM Browne was upset by what was said and left in a fit of anger.  The PM has said that there were absolutely no issues, and certainly not anger; it is simply unfortunate timing that he had to return to Antigua & Barbuda on urgent matters. A lot has been made of the issue, with one Caribbean publication out of Florida headlining its paper, “Gaston’s Hissy Fit”.  It is unfortunate that our PM would be painted in that light, but knowing our PM, he is unlikely to run from a fight so we will take the various ‘Hissy Fit’ reports with a grain of salt.

In any case, the timing of the PM’s departure is much less of an issue when we consider all of the pressing issues that are facing CARICOM and our march towards integration. We certainly do not need a sideshow to distract from all the risks facing CARICOM, so we are begging the ‘big men’ that are tasked with holding this fragile ship together to set aside egos and get on with the work at hand.

There are just a few things that hold our region together. LIAT, West Indies cricket and music.  It may seem like we have simplified nearly a half-century of work down to three non-political issues but remove those three things from Caribbean collective and we doubt that CARICOM will survive in any meaningful form.

Trinidad & Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley certainly sees what we see.  In his opinion, the unity of CARICOM countries is under threat from the state of dis-unity surrounding West Indies cricket.  According to Rowley, “The current arrangement in West Indies cricket is not just destroying cricket as a game … What is happening at the level of heads at CARICOM should make it clear to people that the game is now, and the management and the situation is threatening to destroy CARICOM itself.”

From Rowley’s perspective and that of many others, the fight over the future of West Indies cricket is like a cancer that is weakening the strength of our unity and if the situation is not arrested, it will be terminal.  Rowley may have his own agenda in all of this but the core message rings true regardless of his objectives.

The rift and ripples from the cricket issue is evident from the brisk words from PM Browne.  In a strongly worded statement following his departure, he said that the governance of West Indies cricket “appears to be an evocative romanticism of a particular Caribbean head” adding that there should be no interference “in the internal affairs of institutions and governments”.  The PM doubled-down on his statements by saying, “there is a particular head, who is of the view — and if I may add here, the flawed opinion that with my support and other heads — that he could achieve his compulsive, obsessive desire to dissolve the board … the latter, he fallaciously argued, would automatically resolve the multiplicity of problems facing the West Indies cricket overnight.”

Strong words, but he was not finished. He said, “in the event that he had gotten my support for this fantasy, the question would have been how would he have achieved this forced dissolution … talk is cheap, as leaders we should know our limitations and control our aspirations by ensuring that they do not exceed our limitations … we should also respect the rights of individual heads”.

It is an interesting choice of terse words, especially when the PM says nothing happened at the meeting. There is certainly no illusion of harmony and we doubt that this episode will bring the parties any closer together.

In all of this, we see so many similarities with the LIAT situation.  Cricket, and LIAT, are cornerstones to our CARICOM unity and, unfortunately, these institutions are on a downward trajectory.  Political meddling and poor management are killing them and may eventually kill the unity essential for integration.  For us to have a fighting chance, everyone needs to check their egos at the door and find a solution.  If they are unable to do that, then they need to step out of the way and find people who can.

Luckily for us, the production and distribution of music from the creative minds of our people are beyond political interference; for now! That bit of glue, however, will not be sufficient to bind us on its own.

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