The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has always blown hot and cold toward Caribbean integration. This has been the case since the famous “No” vote in the 1962 referendum which effectively killed the West Indies Federation. At that time, Alexander Bustamante carried the torch on behalf of the anti-integration forces.
The torch has now been passed to Bruce Golding, who – since assuming office – has fully lived up to the anti-CARICOM animus inscribed on his genetic code. Shortly after assuming office, Golding declared that his election carried no mandate for political integration. It was a strange comment especially since no one had asked. Ironically, during the Dudus Coke Affair, Golding showed much understanding of the value of CARICOM to his image, particularly in his role as its chairman.
Today, with the pressure from the Coke Affair diffused, Golding’s most recent remarks (which again have come out of the blue, this time during a parliamentary debate on constitution reform), found him calling for a referendum on Jamaica’s membership in the CCJ. Ominously, he hinted at the possibility of Jamaica having its own court of appeal. Coming after years of regional efforts at establishing the CCJ, Golding’s stab is potentially no less fatal to regional integration than was Bustamante’s cruel cut.
Given the importance of Jamaica to Caribbean culture, self-image and psyche, the ambivalence of its leaders to the integration project can no longer be ignored if the regional movement is to succeed. Those who work towards regionalism must therefore strive to arrive at a technically sound solution to the “Jamaica problem”. Such a solution must involve a mechanism which will allow processes and institutions of Caribbean integration to proceed apace, without being constantly thrown into confusion by whimsical Jamaican disruptions.
Crude as it may sound, the process of integration must be carried forward in such a way as to make Jamaica “less important” to its success. A clue to how this may be done is identifiable in the OECS model of what Ralph Gonsalves has called the “unification of the willing”. Central to this is a mechanism which allows those in favour to go as far along the road to integration as they wish, while simultaneously leaving the door open for those who are initially sceptical to later enter.
Such an approach however, can work only when supra-national mechanisms of compliance are put in place to solidify the commitment of the willing, and to stop our governments from “backing out”.
It is this deeper level of regional governance that Jamaica, with other regional governments, has been particularly reluctant to accept. However, it is the “backing out” which spells failure and which demoralises the willing. Regional institutions must be strengthened to act by those states ready to move forward. Those who are not, but love the region, can offer their silence. •Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus specialising in analysis of regional affairs.