GUEST COLUMN – Will CARICOM speak up on Libya
AS THE United States and its principal NATO allies – Britain and France in particular – continue to battle on for “regime change” in Libya, the question remains whether the governments of our Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are disposed to making a principled public statement on the bloody crisis in that North African state, before President Muammar Gaddafi is removed from office, dead or alive.
Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister Tillman Thomas of Grenada, told me when I called for a response on Friday that he was personally deeply concerned over “the deterioration of the crisis situation” in Libya, and felt that as a Community interested in peaceful resolutions to conflicts that involve nations with which we have diplomatic relations, it would “be difficult to maintain collective public silence”.
The question of immediate relevance, therefore, is whether CARICOM governments are prepared to tell the people of this region where they “collectively stand” on the war by the Western powers for “regime change” in Libya?
What we are now witnessing in Libya is a scenario where the Western powers have moved from an original claim of “protecting civilians” to waging a war in support of armed rebels that coincides with their own political agenda to get rid of Gaddafi’s government.
Some CARICOM governments whose economic development programmes are linked to vital funding from Libya are in deep agony as powerful and wealthy Western nations now intensify their military battle for “regime change” with direct bombing strikes last week on the office complex of Gaddafi.
Among Caribbean leaders expressing concerns, apart from Thomas, were his counterparts in St Vincent and the Grenadines (Ralph Gonsalves), Antigua and Barbuda (Baldwin Spencer), Dominica (Roosevelt Skerrit), St Lucia (Stephenson King) and St Kitts and Nevis (Denzil Douglas).
As the Guardian in England reported on Easter Monday’s official Libyan complaint that two successive bombing strikes were part of a plan to “assassinate” Gaddafi, the Caribbean Media Corporation pointed to the consequences for some regional economies in view of the deteriorating situation in Libya.
Immediate projects expected to be affected include the opening of a Libyan embassy in St Lucia and a bank in St Kitts. As Prime Minister Spencer contends, “whether we like it or not, we are still very much dependent on oil from the Middle East and most f our economies are driven by that . . . and we are nervously watching developments in the North African country of Libya”.
CARICOM leaders would also be conscious of another reality beyond the region’s dependency on oil. It is that the Western nations currently driving the campaign for regime change, and in the process distorting the United Nations Security Council’s “no-fly zone” resolution to “protect civilians”, do not give a damn what the governments and people of Latin American and Caribbean region think about how they wage their campaign to get Gaddafi.
Writing earlier on the “fig leaf” support that the Arab League had expediently provided, at Washington’s initiative, for the UN “no-fly zone” resolution of April, I had made clear that as a journalist of this region, I have no tears to shed for Gaddafi who has been ruling Libya with an iron first for some four decades.
Further, it was evident that the support sought from the Arab League by the United States and its allies for the Security Council’s “no-fly zone” resolution could not mask the real, but unstated, objective of “regime change” in Tripoli.
In contrast to the double-speak on the current bloody battles in the Middle East/North Africa region, the United States and its two most formidable “partners in war” on Libya – Britain and France – have been demonstrating that “regime change” in Tripoli is the name of the game, as was done in Bhagdad to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Then it was done with open contempt for the United Nations when then President George W. Bush ignored the world body in launching the United States military invasion of Iraq.
The people and governments of the Caribbean are mere spectators – like people and governments in other poor and developing regions of the world – to the hypocrisy of the United States and its major European allies as they expediently engage in muted criticisms against the brutal repression of Western-backed regimes in the Middle East, but pressing for regime change in Libya. Even if, as of now, it means taking out the Libyan dictator dead.
One does not have to be a political sympathizer of the Libyan leader to make an independent judgement on what’s occurring in Libya – in the name of “democratic governance”.
So, will CARICOM, while rightly making no pretence about having any economic or political clout, at least raise a moral voice against the evident abuse of the United Nations “no-fly zone” resolution to “protect civilians”?