Silence of the Lambs? While Caricom leaders remain silent, probably because of tactful diplomacy and their disgust and shame in relation to one of their colleagues, President Jagdeo continues his wanton and unwarranted attacks on the Caribbean Regional Negot-iating Machinery (CRNM) and its competent officials. His latest attack was in connection with the proposed Caricom/Canada economic and trade negotiations, and his expressed lack of confidence in the CRNM and indeed his objection to it handling the upcoming negotiations. Not only are these public remarks distasteful, undiplomatic and un-statesmanlike for a head of state, but they also convey to development partners with whom Caricom negotiates external assistance, the impression of disunity and weakness in the Caricom camp, and tardiness in the progression towards final agreements. It is apposite to note that in spite of his disappointment, Prime Minister Manning did not rant and rave when the Caribbean negotiators did not bring home the bacon of the location of the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) Secretariat to Trinidad and Tobago, which was one of two front runners.
The CRNM is a legitimate body of Caricom established under Article 12 (6) of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and endorsed by the Conference of Heads of Government which is the supreme organ of the community. One of the main reasons for the establishment of the CRNM was to have a body of technically competent researchers and skilful negotiators at the main office in Jamaica, and small branches at strategic locations at the CSME unit in Barbados and the OECS Secretariat in St Lucia. The choice of Jamaica as the site for the main office was no doubt influenced by the availability of the multidisciplinary faculties at the Mona Campus of UWI and by the Caricom practice of a balanced location of regional institutions. One wonders whether President Jagdeo’s desire for the relocation of the CRNM’s head office under the aegis of the Caricom Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana, is not a political manoeuvre in keeping with the strategy of the closer the target the shorter the range or trajectory in easily hitting and controlling the target.
The region cannot afford the luxury of the loss of its talented officials because of unwarranted political attacks on them, and the promotion of discord among these officials by those politicians in pursuit of narrow and selfish ambitions. It is the duty of Caricom leaders to strengthen, preserve and promote respect for regional institutions and their officials, even if it means that dissenting politicians may want to pick up their asymmetric marbles and walk away to the desert of poverty and underdevelopment in their own countries.