FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Put Barbados first
There are those who complained about the “colonial masters” and fought for Independence, and those who continue to complain about the Queen (who as far as I am aware doesn’t interfere one bit in the running of our country) being our Head of State. But now we seem to have a new master in the form of CARICOM.
As a result of the recent Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) decision, one panellist on a TV programme noted: “We have lost control of our borders, we have lost control of our legislation, and sovereignty now takes on a whole new meaning.” I couldn’t agree more. Has Independence lost its meaning?
I have said before that our politicians seem to like to see their signatures so they see how many agreements they can sign during their terms in office. But this time, with the signing of the Revised Treaty Of Chaguaramas and subsequently the CCJ Agreement, we certainly seem to have “cut a stick to break our own backs”. I am not against cooperation, but this is going too far. We must weigh the benefits against the drawbacks when we sign these agreements, lest we sign our lives away.
The Revised Treaty Of Chaguaramas has 240 articles and the CCJ Agreement 39. Based on my experience while in the Senate, where I observed glaring errors in much shorter bills seemingly going unnoticed by the 30 members of the House of Assembly, I would very much doubt whether our politicians read these agreements thoroughly before affixing their signatures on our behalf. I understand that Antigua added certain conditions to its signing. Didn’t we think we needed to do the same?
As far as I can see, Barbados’ contributions to CARICOM far outweigh the benefits it derives, especially where trade is concerned. I agree with Pat Hoyos that Barbados was the only place in CARICOM that acted like it was part of CARICOM. We’ve opened our doors as much as we possibly could, but of course Barbados’ success in the past has caused it to be a preferred destination, so we encounter far more issues than the other countries.
With regard to the Myrie case, I agree that the travelling public must be treated in a fair and dignified manner, but protocols should be put in place for immigration officers to follow, rather than leaving everything to their discretion. Shouldn’t all these procedures, regulations, definitions of “undesirable” persons and identification of acceptable reasons for refusal of entry and so on, which we are hearing about now, have been clearly set out in the treaty and agreed to by all parties? And while we’re at it, shouldn’t we also have clearly delineated the responsibilities of the police vis-à-vis Immigration and Customs at the airport? Aren’t we as usual trying to close the stable door (at considerable cost) after the horse is out?
As far as I recall, Senator Verla Depeiza, while participating in a discussion on the recent CCJ decision, felt that there would probably be fewer treaties signed in the future. I hope that she’s right, that we’ve learned our lesson and in going forward we put Barbados first. We mustn’t give up our sovereignty in spite of all the talk about globalization. If we manage our affairs well, we wouldn’t be so beholden to the international community and have to comply with all the rules they make but don’t adhere to themselves.
On the subject of agreements, specifically the World Trade Organization (WTO) (another agreement we’ve signed), we need to seek the support of organizations like the International Forum on Globalization, which states that the Agreement On Agriculture (AOA) should be removed from the WTO since it “pits many of the poorest people in the world against many of the wealthiest and most powerful . . . . It requires that countries stop subsidizing their rural communities, and open their economies to industrialized, corporate farming practices.
Simultaneously, it allows for the mass subsidization of multinational corporate farms, mainly in the US and European Union, through billions of dollars in “hidden” subsidies such as those for exports . . . . AOA’s imposition of an unequal system of global competition on the domestic farm sector has undermined the viability of small farmers around the world who are unable to compete with cheaper subsidized imports”.
Food sovereignty is important to us, so we must speak out on this.
• Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator.