ALL AH WE IS ONE: Grass roots vacuum
Rickey Singh’s pain is unmistakeable when he asks in the September 29 Midweek Nation: “What’s really going on in CARICOM on the critical challenge for improved governance?” His lamentation was in response to the failure of CARICOM to adopt a governance framework designed to reverse the community’s habit of non-implementation.
Whilst it is customary to blame the political leadership, or lack thereof, much of CARICOM’s failings is because there has never been a sustained grass-roots, popular movement for political and economic integration. The integration discussion has therefore been reduced to a sterile technocratic adventure, with no bottom-up energy from a mass base.
It is an idea without a movement, and it is a project without a party.
Ironically, a region which has spawned cross-territorial organisation on nearly every thing under the sun has never given birth to a pan-Caribbean political organisation whose raison d’être, is political unification. Without this, Caribbean nationals will remain mere spectators in the unification enterprise.
The integration project will resemble a child’s trust fund: established in their name, but of which they have very little knowledge, and to which they are in no position to contribute.
In such a context, therefore, what should be a peoples’ project has become the plaything of a small technocratic elite.
A clear example of this was seen in the manner in which the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) was sold to the Caribbean public. An enterprise which should have been lubricated with the language of anti-colonialism, and which should have been explained as the taking of the final instrument of full sovereignty, was hijacked by the detached intellectualism of those charged with its implementation.
Terms like “original jurisdiction” and “appellate court” were force-fed down the throats of lay persons, who, as is always the case in such instances, resisted the medicine. The establishment of the court therefore, though a remarkable and important achievement in itself, has failed to excite the imagination of the ordinary man.
He cannot see how the promised justice applies to him.
None of this should mean that governments are blameless for CARICOM’s stalled progress. Leaders have a responsibility to lead, and in recent times, there is a clear failure of leadership across the Caribbean. The CSME has lost its steam and the governance project is pushed to the back burner.
However, governments often blame their failure to act on the basis that “the people do not want it”. In this, they may have a point.
Those committed to the cause should now engage in the serious work of forming a focussed and serious grass roots political organisation. This would supply the badly needed energy from below, and spur the movement forward.
This is in turn will ignite a fire under the lacklustre feet of the region’s timid political leadership. Until it happens Caricom is set for more reversals, and disappointment.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus specialising in analysis of regional affairs.