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OUR CARIBBEAN – Few wishes and concerns for this Christmas

Rickey Singh

OUR CARIBBEAN – Few wishes and concerns for this Christmas

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ON THIS Christmas eve, I begin by extending best wishes to families who have lost their loved ones this year – either through the mindless criminal violence plaguing this and other Caribbean nations;  or as a consequence of serious illness – such as the late Prime Minister David Thompson.    
Secondly, I empathize with the trauma of the thousands stranded at airports in the United Kingdom and other European capitals – among them Caribbean nationals – frustrated and distressed by the freezing weather.
The contrast in weather conditions is so sharp and pleasing in our Caribbean that, for all the social, economic and political problens we confront, it seems so pointless to grumble over too much rain.
On the other hand, grumblings over the punishing cost-of-living is understandable. For all the assurances being given, the worst may yet be experienced after the holidays.
These days governments across the region are quick to rationalise falling incomes, increasing joblessness and skyrocketing food prices by summoning to their rescue the delayed recovery from a global economic crisis. In this context manoeuvres to marginalize the influence of trade unions is one of the issues that would require new approaches for a return to structured periodic consultations between the region’s labour movement and Caribbean Community leaders.
The CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Congress of Labour need to get back to scheduled dialogue.When they do, one of the priority issues  should be how some governments are pursuing policies that mock commitment to “freedom of movement” in the building of “One Community for One People”.
The Secretariat and the CCL should also give some consideration to the damage being done to multi-party democracy and independent functioning of institutions in some of our Community states, with some priority given to the situation in Antigua and Barbuda.
While otherwise making this observation, there came on Wednesday a Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) report that former Prime Minister Lester Bird was among seven leading members of the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) fined EC 500 (US$555) by Magistrate Ivan Walter each for allegedly contravening the country’s Public Order Act when they addressed a rally of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (ATLU) on Labour Day 2009.  
The ATLU was founded by Bird’s father, the late veteran political and trade union leader Vere Bird, whose family members, including sons Lester and Vere Junior, have long been associated with organised labour.
Justice, they say, is not a cloistered virtue. Therefore, for the magistrate to rule that the Bird brothers and others who are also parliamentarians had contravened the Public Order Act by addressing the rally without “police permission” because their names were not on a list of speakers, is to be appealed.
Convicting a former Prime Minister, ex-cabinet ministers and leading members of the ATLU for addressing a peaceful Labour Day rally in 2009 could only further aggravate social and political tension in that country.     
For now, good wishes for Christmas to all readers. Hope you can also visit one of the Singing Christmas Tree presentations at the People’s Cathedral an annual production that has evolved as a special cultural/spiritual event for this season.