During Carifesta in Suriname, I took the opportunity to ask many of the participants a simple yet deep question – Do you think of yourself as a Caricom citizen, why/why not?
This is a question I think the Caricom Secretariat should really ask around the member states. Of everyone I asked, around 30 people, only one person – a Surinamese 19-year-old male said he did not consider himself to be a Caricom citizen. Why not? He said it was not easy to travel from state to state. That was it. Although the majority said yes, travel between member states was a universal factor brought up by almost everyone.
But yes, people feel like Caricom citizens because we basically have the same identities, people, culture, arts, political ideologies and governments, economic struggles… the list goes on.
For the people who explained their answers for the first question well, I asked them another riveting question – Caricom is an integration process. As a citizen, what do you think is the final stage of this integration process?
This was indeed a tough one. Everyone had their own views on what integration means. Sure they are working on uniting the economies to create a single market and currency, sure they want to make transportation easier by making the individual airspaces into one huge sovereign airspace but at the end of the day we must ask ourselves: Is the final product of this integration a single economic market and currency or a union of federal states that spans miles of sea and ocean? Do I see a United Caribbean States (UCS) in the next hundred years or the same old Caribbean Community modelled after the European Union?
One particular lady, a fashion designer from Trinidad said that federation is impossible simply because our leaders would want to maintain their own lands and call it theirs forever (History repeating itself after the West Indian Federation collapsed because of the unstable federal government).
This brought a final question to those who held a great discussion: If Caricom decides on becoming a federation today, would you think of it as giving up your sovereignty or sharing your sovereignty?
Everyone, except the 19-year-old Surinamese who does not think he is a Caricom citizen, said they believe it would be sharing their sovereignty. However, many did not give much detail on this because they ended the discussion by saying it would not happen for now.
True, it would not with our current leaders. In the past the Caricom states were just yearning for political independence and now that we have it, we are young and still clutching to this newly earned independent land. Haiti excluded, all the other states are less than sixty years old, and so all the governments want that freedom of being independent before being a mere ‘Regional Governor’ in a federation administered by Caricom.
Caricom really needs to do a thorough investigation on what its citizenry thinks of this integration process, quite frank the majority of us don’t know. I was happy to realise that some Caricom citizens want this federation; many of us want easier transport and work/education access, many of us want to be treated as one without discrimination.
In July I wrote that Caricom is only as strong as the citizens of the member states want is to be, after deep contemplation (and a heated debate with my uncle) I would like to add that Caricom can also exert its presence by being very active in its states and being very influential in state policies and society. Caricom has to go the extra mile.us.
Now I ask you… Do you think of yourself as a Caricom citizen? What does the integration process mean to you and do you think being a part of a federation is giving up your sovereignty, or sharing it? (Jairo Rodrigues)