Caricom: Some history, many realities

Challenging the cocaine: The DEA and US

It really was a bit of a co-incidence finding a batch of my “historical” notes on CARICOM, along with a related newspaper clipping of a few years ago.

With a tiny bit of shame, I have to admit that my focus on this CARICOM weekend was debutante CARICOM Head of State Granger obtaining full Caribbean support against Venezuela’s latest maritime aggression against our national, natural resource and a riverfront festival in the town of Linden.

Then I re-read the newspaper clipping. Heavily negative vibes about the Caribbean Community and Common Market from former Jamaican giant Edward Seaga, the news item reveals. But first I share also my CARICOM history notes, official and approved.

Guyana’s role…

When the best attempt was made in 1958, to establish the West Indies Federation, replete with difficulties related to a single administrative structure or self-governing status, British Guiana’s Cheddi Jagan displayed no interest in such a union. The Federation quickly collapsed in 1962

But when the mid-sixties influenced West Indian Island States to explore mechanisms for some form of integration to further regional trade and economic development, Forbes Burnham, Guiana’s Premier was quick to join the Antiguan and Barbadian leaders to sign an agreement in Antigua (December 1965) to establish a “Free Trade” area – The Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA). Other States duly signed on.

The CARIFTA evolved as best it could up to 1972. “Rules of Origin,” Marketing Protocols, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States are among mechanisms fashioned to make free trade work for the benefit of Caribbean people. By 1972 many members were fully independent Republics with economies striving to be more robust and competitive. Enter CARICOM.

Forbes Burnham was among economic integrationist pioneers in Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago, once again. The 1973 Treaty was meant to strengthen and expand all areas of regional economic and social co-operation; even the intricacies of external preferential arrangements. The Agreements – the basic Chaguaramas Treaty – were refined in Georgetown through a Georgetown Accord. The history is now easily accessible to any student of the Community. Guyana was chosen to house the Secretariat amidst –mild disagreements and post – 1973 challenges, political in nature. (Forbes Burnham even found time to “father” a Caribbean Festival-CARIFESTA – which still survives, and to ensure that Guyanese Clive Lloyd become a most successful West Indies Cricket Captain.)

But all never seemed well with the expanded “modern” CARICOM. Frankly Speaking, I, as a subdued CARICOM enthusiast always wondered how successfully certain (political) Heads of State would submerge their specific sovereignty in favour of a more collective “federal” regional development strategy. Bajan P.M. Owen Arthur once hinted at his own predicament in this regard at a Georgetown Conference a few years ago.


Weekend summit, realities beyond

I, like thousands of other CARICOM nationals I bet, am not bothering myself with this current 2015 CARICOM Heads of Government Confab.

I leave it to the Secretary-General, the current Chairman and Secretariat to ensure all agenda items are exhausted in the people’s interest. We know and recognize a Common Passport, UWI, Development Bank, and all the other trappings. Our people know that Caribbean Airport Immigration folks vary their welcome, ‘free movement or no free movement”. (“Do you have the appropriate document?”)

Rather, I want the Heads and their Secretariat to respond to Edward Seaga’s realistic negativity (from the Trinidad Guardian clipping.

Excerpts from Mr Seaga: (a) “CARICOM has never been a viable organization”, (b) “The CARICOM Flagship – The CARICOM Single-Market and Economy (CSME) has stalled. It can’t go any further … our rates of production are non-competitive … energy costs, interest rates the highest”, (c) “The CSME won’t help us export more goods, just enables us to import more goods…” (d) “produce sufficient food for our own consumption? And export? We don’t have the land … fertile but broken up into small pieces, fragmented, you can’t grow crops on a competitive basis”.

Seaga pointed to the vast huge acreages for wheat, corn, sugar in other lands; he held out little hope for CARICOM’S public and private sectors getting together to overcome (production or fiscal) problems and lamented that the Community cannot even finalise “a common foreign policy”. Now I hope that this Summit, besides welcoming new Head David Granger and denouncing Venezuela’s expansionist aggression against Guyana, will respond to Mr Seaga’s loss of hope.


Confronting Cocaine’s Challenge

Okay, volumes have been written about our status as a premier drugs transshipment point of trafficking and export. There is little more I can offer. I however often feel the urge to remind the “relevant authorities” to focus on a few specifics. Especially now that there is a new public security perspective.

For example: what are the sources of the coke arriving here? How and where? So, many policemen, politicians and private persons know those answers? If so, can’t anything positive in the anti-cocaine fight be done about it?

I’m told when a courier is fingered at the local airports or a container caught abroad, others have escaped notice. Wow! The American Drug Enforcement fellows are here, so what really is the DEA’s role? How effective is their furtive collaboration with the locals?

Which Guyanese Agencies are utilized in the Anti-Cocaine war here? Well, when a Linden dude was accused of packing his coke in charcoal – in March – I learnt of a few. The Police Force has an Anti-Narcotics Unit; there is CANU , a Serious Organised Crime Unit (SOCU). The Revenue Authority tells of its LEID – Law Enforcement and Investigative Division and PCU – Port Control Unit of the UN Office of Drug and Crime (UNDOC). I wonder: could the five agencies listed above carry the battle to Guyana’s now well-organised cocaine sector?

What do you think? Who should be one step ahead of the other? Whose submarine-type submersible was found in the North-West some months ago? Ho-Ho!


Ponder Actively…

*1)   Quote from Professor Dr Ken Danns: “The PPP government has starved the flagship institution of resources, converting what was once proudly referred to as “Jagan Night School” into “Ramotar cow pen…”

*2)   Our Sports Teams seem not to be inspired by recent changes. They lose at cricket, football, basketball, boxing. New ideas needed – from meetings venue to field?

*3)   I challenge, dare you again: name five (5) new Heads of Missions to be appointed soon.


‘Til next week!


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