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Friday, July 6, 2012


Remarks from Dr The Hon Kenny Anthony:
The Incoming Chairperson of the Caribbean Community at the 33rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government William Jefferson Clinton Ballroom, Sandals Grande Resort, Saint Lucia. 
4th July, 2012

Statio Haud Malefida Carinis, “a safe harbour for ships,” is the antecedent motto of this isle, Saint Lucia. It is a signature, descriptive of Port Castries and other secure anchorages that would give calm to mariners of old. Today, I welcome, with unreserved felicitations, this delegation, captains of this Caribbean Armada. You have sailed in on the full moon of the month, but I am sure you would remark that such a greeting luminaire is dim beside the light and warmth of your Saint Lucian hosts.

Saint Lucia presents a safe harbour to all her sister states, who have indeed, on many occasions, granted her graciously, reciprocity. She commends herself to all members that she may provide constancy and surety in her support for the common good of the Caribbean’s cause.

It is not very often that a leader may chair an organisation like that of CARICOM on three separate occasions. As our Community has now grown to fifteen full members, the rotation of the chair now arises about every seven years or so. Indeed, the last time Saint Lucia had the honour of welcoming Heads to our shores was July 3rd 2005, at which time I held the confidence of the state as prime minister. Of course, the following year, I was sent to political purgatory for my sins!

As such, political metanoia has dictated my return to the chair; and to share with Heads what should be seen as wisdom from the recent past, that is relevant to the future. Indeed, my days with CARICOM Heads is only to be surpassed in seniority by fellow Prime Ministers Gonzalves of Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Douglas of St Kitts and Nevis.

And so to CARICOM, to the Heads herein, and to the Community in every state, I rededicate myself to our working enterprise, and to the vigour and volition requisite to this office.

Ladies and gentlemen, in 1998, Saint Lucia had the honour of hosting Heads on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of CARICOM; a time in which the entire Caribbean was abuzz with the hopes and, also undeniably, the fears, anxieties and trepidations, of the Single Market and Economy. We were edified by the presence of a man who represented amazing strength and honour, a man who holds a special place in all our hearts, that of His Excellency Nelson Mandela. There were dreams of strengthened ties with the African continent, of indigenous institutions handling the affairs of our commons. Alas, with the benefit of age, I have learnt to temper my exuberance somewhat, as the patience taught by CARICOM could well be concluded for special patenting.

Today, I welcome to Saint Lucia for the first time many Heads, including those who have recently been elected to office. In particular, I wish to extend a special welcome to President Martelly of Haiti. Our countries share a rich heritage which is suitably celebrated in our language.

Misyé Martelly, pèp-la Ayiti, sé péyi nou ja jwi yon listwa ki byen wich, épi yon kilti ki ni yon chay pawèy kon lanng Kwéyòl-la. Nou menm kon sé péyi Donmnik, Matinik, èk Gwadloup, ni anchay anpawèy.

Mwen sav ou kay santi ou lakay an Sent Lisi. Kay nou sé kay ou. Magwé gwo dézas-la an lanné démil dis, Ayiti ja tjenn konmitman'y pou CARICOM èk osi CARICOM ja tjenn konmitman'y pou fwè nou èk sè nou an Ayiti.
The struggle and history of Haiti, the first of all Western nations to be rid of enslavement, reminds us that our borders have still been overwhelmed by the powers from far beyond our shores. Unlike our historical conception with cannon guarding every cove and redoubt mounting every hill, we are largely open countries, an archipelago of  islands and states with modest defenses, from economic depression, from deleterious disease and natural disasters.

The challenges brought on by the events of September 11, 2001; the crisis of the world’s financial and banking systems and attendant recessions; the collapse of our very own financial conglomerates; major natural disasters in recent times, from Hurricane Ivan and Tomas to the earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010; the already visible impacts of climate change; the revelation of ponzi schemes; the continued flow of narcotics and illgeal arms – these all have paid their toll on our current Caribbean outlook. We have survived, despite it all.
However, even in the face of all this, leaders of this era need not falter in their commitments of resource and resolve to the Community. Our people need not feel folorn during these times. Our Caribbean love, togetherness, resolve and determination must overcome external contempt and manipulation. Afford we cannot, should states and their citizens be allowed to grow cynical and quip a defeatist “c’est la vie” in the causality of perception.

We need not quiver in our Caribbean resolve, even unto the disasters of man and of nature which have confronted our homelands, even in considering in the enormity of breadth or proportion. We have a rich and unique heritage as a Caribbean People, and though our politics may often not attest that we are home to the world’s fastest sprinters, our people, by their determined wills, tell us that we have the genius to realise the consummation of our dreams.

Of certain significance to Heads is that in exactly one year, CARICOM would mark its fortieth anniversary since the signing of the Treaty at Chaguaramas. As such, it is most fitting that Heads gathered herein are afforded the time to concentrate on the critical matters affecting this organisation: its framework its challenges and its directions.

I am pleased to inform Heads that we have formulated what I hope will be adequate time for frank discourse in camera. We need to talk with each other. I have therefore, so arranged our Agenda to devote an entire day to a caucus of Heads, initially alone, and later, with our officials. I believe we must take time to share our hopes, dreams and aspirations for our beloved though enigmatic region. We must start again by re-establishing the “political chemistry” that bound us together. We need to re-affirm our common future, our common faith.

We cannot afford to leave the winds of progress uncaught when they blow. The gales and harmattans of global politics and economics mean that we must be willing to venture through waters uncharted. We must be enterprising, yet perceptive and willing to put into our “common cloud,” the store of knowledge and expertise held throughout our states. 

While there are indeed nascent challenges abounding, there also belies a hysteresis within our institutions and in our political responsiveness. Of great concern to me is the apparent recurrence of issues related to the management of our institutions which were addressed years before. These are like recurring decimals and we really must summon the will to settle them once and for all.

As a consequence, we must not fear to reform and reshape our political architecture within regional and national spaces. Cognizant that our Community is a diverse and evolving entity, this will require flexibility and responsiveness. Our operational matrix has been transformed since the start of the millennium when we embraced Suriname and Haiti into the fold. Our community is now multilingual and some would suggest even multicultural despite our strong affinities. More fundamentally, there is a desire and a need to realise better governance and participation in decision making throughout our states.

In 2005, I urged Heads to be weary of those cloaked as “paragons of universal freedom, virtue and justice” and to embrace our home-grown democratic principles and institutions. We now manage mature democracies, albeit not without blemishes. I say to all present that the ideal of self-determination should still remain; that we should strive to actualise our own accords and accomplish our political craftsmanship, lest these be driven by storms from across the seas.

This is a message I shared at the last meeting of the OECS Authority as outgoing chair and I believe it has applicability throughout our region. We must refashion our governance structures at the national level to strengthen our maturing democracies. We have won the right to our independence and we should proudly and consciously make these reforms on our own volition, on our own terms; not for the compliance of external requirements or the appeasement of others.

Mature societies act freely and not only when forced to do so. If we are to expect better governance, then we must find the courage and the determination to reform our parliamentary processes as well as our electoral machinery and related practices. Furthermore, we must craft responses to jointly address corruption and the abuse of power. We must rethink our financial management systems to make them more transparent and accountable to the shareholders of our states; so that it reflects the totality of government operations, not simply that of Central Government. Thankfully, we have the prior experience of Jamaica, which has led the way in innovations such as creating an Office of Contractor General and modifying budget procedures to better capture government spending.

Such a redesign would not be complete without considering better modes and controls for financing of political campaigns. Again, Jamaica has led the way as it seeks to tame the excesses of campaign financing. 

Ladies and gentlemen, ours is a peculiar region with great disparities in size and scale. One state, Haiti, represents 57% of our population; two states, Trinidad and Jamaica, 53% of our economy; Guyana and Suriname combined are 81% of our land mass; Saint Lucia, 50% of Nobel Prizes. And so, it may be difficult to envisage parity given such varied parameters; but this also suggests the breadth of our wealth and the need to realise one common agenda for prosperity.

The entire world has changed around CARICOM in forty years, and such change continues apace. Indeed, embracing these shifting winds means that we must respond to redefine our global space.
There was a time when the Caribbean was the centre of discovery of new things, new styles, new ideas, and even of trade and wealth. Believe it or not, Castries was once the twelfth busiest port in the British Empire – a time when ships were powered by coal, that is. Now, empires are no more; and we cannot remain still and expect the world to embrace us. We must negotiate with ourselves and determine where we want to be in the world before negotiating with the world where they want us to be.

The time has come for CARICOM to overhaul and redefine its foreign policy positions and postures. I accept that there will always be differences between and among our states. But that does not mean that we should ignore the need to remodel our space in this dramatically altered world.
The reality that beholds us is that the prospects of global growth will be determined by decisions made in Beijing. China is on course to be become the world’s largest economy in the next few years and a superpower in its own right.

Sixty percent of the global population is in Asia with a growing share of the world’s GDP – currently 22% and rising. Major emerging economies including India, Indonesia, Korea and Malaysia are increasingly important to global demand.

In our own hemisphere, the countries of Latin America, once told that they were doing everything wrong, have emerged out of this global economic quagmire relatively unscathed.

Although Africa’s GDP is currently about one twelfth that of Asia’s, it is a massive continent of nearly one billion persons and with exciting opportunities. African states are finding a new era of stability which is fuelling economic growth and a socio-cultural renaissance. In many ways, Africa is embracing and adapting technology at a faster rate than the Caribbean. South Africa and Nigeria are not the only regional powers enjoying increased prosperity and even formerly war torn states such as Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo are becoming major partners for investment flows from China.

With such rapid change and enormous opportunity, where does CARICOM find itself? The Caribbean and Africa are historical extensions of each other. We know the potential exists to develop strong Trans-Atlantic partnerships in trade, tourism, technology, education and cultural fusion. Unfortunately, we have allowed our relationship with the African Continent to rise and fall with the fortunes of the ACP. We need to re-engage Africa urgently.
We are all aware that Europe now faces an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions. Europe will never be the same again. We need not be naïve of the likely impacts that these may have on future assistance from the European Union. Already, efforts are underway to redefine us. Please do not misunderstand me. We should certainly ensure our economies benefit from the existing Economic Partnership Agreement with Europe. However, we must come to terms with a Europe that is deeply wounded.

Without renouncing our traditional friends and allies, for we are not known to be disloyal to our friends, we must develop a common policy and programme for engagement with new and emerging global partners. Our terms must be defined by our strategic interests.

 Over the ensuing months and looking into the future, it is my fervent hope that we dedicate our efforts towards a dynamic and outward stance of engagement with third states, particularly with Africa, Latin America and other emerging economic regions. We must move apace to use fora such as the Commonwealth and the ACP to enhance our global reach and relevance. Economic and socio-cultural partnerships that benefit all parties are needed; and these must allow CARICOM to share with the world as active participants, not as after thoughts.

This is not a time to be contemplating becoming a weaker Community. While we must be cautious that our membership must share our common values and principles, we should also seek to dispel stereotypes that the rest of the world has already cast aside.

Ladies and gentlemen, our people expect delivery of common services and efficiencies in trade and economy, as promised. From business executives to craftsmen, our people are growing accustomed to instant messaging, instant coffee and online banking. While the world of diplomacy and international relations is not reputed for its instantiation, we must synthesise approaches that make the right decisions; that realise results, albeit against the constraint of time. We must also communicate more effectively as a community so that the organisation and its values resonate in Stan Creek, in Spanish Town, in Siparia, in Soufrière, and all over our states as much as it is felt here this morning in this Chamber. These are old challenges, the recurring decimals of which I spoke.

This is a time for our differences to be leveraged as our strengths. Our political design must be creative and responsive to the calls for participatory democracy. Our chemistry must realise formulae that are hinged on our strong bonds as a Caribbean family. These are exciting times for us to pull together, and to break the internal partisan moulds that often grip us. These are extraordinary times to embrace each other and share ideas and inputs to realise common Caribbean outcomes. We must not be afraid of the future. CARICOM is our creation, born of the dream and faith of Caribbean men and women just like us. And so, in this era, we must further this idyllic Caribbean dream and set it anew.

I thank you. 

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