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US ‘Thanks’ to Caricom

  • Written by By Rickey Singh -Trinidad Express
  • Published in Opinion
Rickey Singh - A Barbados based, noted Caribbean journalist Rickey Singh - A Barbados based, noted Caribbean journalist
IT IS quite a rarity for a major nation of the world to express thanks to a group of small states for influencing its foreign  policy in a positive direction. The significance becomes all the more greater  when such a development involves superpower USA and the bloc of small independent states happens  to be our own Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

The gesture by ‘Uncle Sam’ assumes quite a unique proportion for a small economic integration movement currently in its 41st year of existence and which led the way in the US recently breaking with its half a century of punishing isolationist politics against the comparatively small Caribbean state of Cuba.

The quartet of Caricom states to bring Cuba out of the US-imposed global ‘diplomatic cold’ were Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados by a unique joint establishment of  diplomatic relations with the then Fidel Castro-led government in Havana. 

That seminal relationship was to subsequently result in a host of other nations across the continents to do likewise over the following years. 

This past Monday, the Caricom Secretariat in Georgetown reported in a press statement that US Vice-President  Joseph Biden officially thanked the Community for its “encouragement” that eventually resulted in last year’s change to the “graduation position´ currently underway.

Vice-President Biden’s expression of “thanks” came at Monday’s Multilateral Meeting of Caricom Heads of Government in Washington. In his response, current Caricom chairman, Prime Minister Perry Christie of The Bahamas, referred to Caricom and the USA  as having   a “kith and kin relationship” which allows them to have a “shared vision…”. Well, so much of that for now.

Jamaica and T&T’s CCJ ‘dance’:

In today’s column I consider it quite relevant also to reference among matters of current growing concerns within our Caribbean Community, the recurring failure by Jamaica to cease its ritual parliamentary debates on termination of Britain’s Privy Council as the country’s final appellate institution and resort, instead, to accessing the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its  court of last resort. Differently, it shares company on this issue with Trinidad and Tobago.  

For a people with a rich history in the struggles against slavery and colonialism, as well as robust contributions in the stirring of political passions for independence, Jamaica continues to invite ridicule—and not just among Caricom partners—for continuing to hold on to the apron string of the Privy Council instead of resorting to the CCJ as its appeal court of last resort, for which the country has already it paid millions of dollars.

Likewise, it continues to engage in a demeaning political choreography with an amusing reluctance to part company with the London-based Privy Council in favour of the CCJ, headquartered in Port of Spain.

However, a prevailing fundamental difference between Kingston and Port of Spain, is the recurring objections of the parliamentary opposition Jamaica Labour Party (currently under the leadership of Andrew Holness) for the governing  People’s National Party of Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller) to first agree to establish a final national appeal court before accessing the CCJ as the country’s court of last resort.

 Well, while in Trinidad and Tobago both the People’s Partnership government of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and the opposition People’s National Movement of Keith Rowley are currently focused on coming new national elections—which could occur within the first half of this year—Prime Minister Simpson-Miller, last week sent a clear message, warning if you like, to the JLP’s decision-makers.

The warning? All 63 elected Members of Parliament—currently dominated by the PNP—now have until this coming April 28 to either support or reject a trio of related bills to make constitutionally right for the CCJ to function as Jamaica’s final appeal court and the scrapping of any access to Britain’s Privy Council.  

The irony of this expected development is the happiness it would also bring to enlightened British law lords who have themselves been openly advocating an end to appeals to the Privy Council from former colonies of the United Kingdom.

               +Rickey Singh is a Barbados-based noted Caribbean journalist.