Secretary-General sees deepening of Caricom-Singapore relations

The presentation of the credentials of Ambassador Kemal Siddique as the first Plenipotentiary Representative of the Republic of Singapore to the Caribbean Community heralds a welcome development in deepening Caricom-Singapore relations, Caricom Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque said last Wednesday.

Ambassador LaRocque also described the Caricom-Singapore relationship as one of great potential and promise.

LaRocque, in remarks at the presentation of credentials ceremony, said that the accreditation “is an act that enhances and strengthens the relationship between Singapore and the region.”

According to a copy of the Secretary-General’s remarks, made available by the Caricom Secretariat at Turkeyen, LaRocque said that “although our countries cannot boast of long historical ties, nor claim geographic proximity, the similarities between Caricom countries and Singapore as small-island vulnerable states are many.”

The Caricom Secretary-General also noted that the  mutual interests and benefits which can be realised from closer relations between the  countries justify the taking of the important step in cementing the bonds of friendship that have been forged between Caricom and Singapore.

“Our budding relationship with Singapore has primarily been in the form of cooperation and collaboration in international organisations in the context of the shared values and principles that we embrace in fora such as the Commonwealth and the Alliance of Small Island States,” LaRocque said.

He also noted that Singapore has taken a bold step at the United Nations in being the principal architect of the recently formed Global Governance Group (3G), in which three Caricom member states are active participants.

This group, he observed, has been formed primarily to exchange views on issues concerning global governance in the aftermath of the emergence of the G20 process and to explore ways in which non-G20 members can better engage and feed their views into the G20 process.

Caricom welcomes these engagements among small states, LaRocque said, as these countries by their very nature share specific concerns and common interests such as environmental and economic vulnerabilities.

“We also applaud Singapore’s support of such platforms that allow small states to discuss and foster common positions on issues of mutual concern, thereby giving these countries a bigger voice in the UN and other international fora,” the Caricom Secretary-General said.

LaRocque also observed that “the idea that a small-island city state of five million people could survive and prosper in today’s world might have seemed improbable. While the odds might have been against Singapore’s success, it is now a globalised economic powerhouse with ample financial resources; a pool of talented and skillful workers and a cohesive society. Singapore’s success story is an example of what can be achieved by small states.”

LaRocque then recalled that during Caricom’s Twenty-Third Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in Suriname this month, the leaders discussed many of the issues that small states continue to champion – the global concern of climate change and representation for small states in fora which influence and develop global financial and economic policies.

With respect to climate change, LaRocque pointed out, Caricom member states continue to argue that the region’s contribution to the effects of the phenomenon is utterly miniscule and immeasurable, yet it is made to bear a disproportionate financial burden for mitigation and adaptation measures. The Liliendaal Declaration on Climate Change, issued by Caricom Heads of Government in July 2009, will guide Caricom’s participation in upcoming fora regarding climate change and sustainable development issues.

These include the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) to be convened in June 2012 in Brazil, and COP 18 to be held in Qatar later this year, the Caricom Secretary-General said.

“We are aware of your keen interest in these issues, as exemplified by your much admired Sustainable Development Blueprint and look forward to your support for our efforts in this area,” LaRocque said.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Siddique, in thanking Secretary General LaRocque, pointed out that Singapore has always and continues to value its relationship with the countries of the Caribbean.

“Our relations with the region date back to 1971 when Singapore and Trinidad & Tobago first established diplomatic relations. Like many of the Caricom’s member states, we are a small country. And like many of your member states as well, we are a small island state,” Ambassador Siddique is quoted as saying.

He also noted that they have a common interest in working together to ensure that the systems of global governance continue to hear and take note of their voices.

“We have successfully and productively worked together to further our common concerns at international fora such as the United Nations and the Forum of Small States.  My appointment as Singapore’s Plenipotentiary Representative to the Caribbean Community is meant to be a signal that Singapore does not take the support of our Caribbean friends for granted,” Ambassador Siddique assured.

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