…Skerrit addresses highs, lows of the Caribbean Community
By Alexis Rodney
Dominican Prime Minister and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government Roosevelt Skerrit has made a plea to his regional counterparts to use the proceedings of the 37th Regular Meeting of the Heads of Government of Caricom, to craft a working plan that would prevent among themselves, a similar event as that which recently occurred in the European Union (EU).
Skerrit was the final Head of State to grace the microphone, in the line-up of speakers at the opening ceremony of the Heads of Government of Caricom meeting, at the National Cultural Centre on Monday.
While he sought to address some of the highs and lows of the Caribbean Community, he was seemingly a little more concerned about the situation in which the European Union has found itself, following the recent exit of the United Kingdom (UK) last week, pleading with community members of Caricom not to even consider taking that route.
He said in his capacity as chairman of the Conference, he needed to make clear his position on the Brexit fallout and made suggestions on what Caricom needs to do in the face of the seismic eruption in the EU and the consequent and inevitable shift in international relationships.
He told the auditorium of Heads of Government and other diplomats: “Some of us might be ambivalent and hesitant to get a closer relationship with Caricom. Let us not resolve to imitate what happened a few days ago in EU.”
According to him, the three-day conference gives Heads of Government the opportunity to seriously consider the effect that Britain’s exit from the Union will have on Caricom and demonstrate leadership on the way forward.
Caricom he reminded, has had a very long and meaningful relationship with the United Kingdom, while Britain remains an important trading partner, and a vital source of assistance on legal and financial matters.
“Let us instead work together to strengthen our cooperation and collaboration to create a stronger and vibrant community,” Skerrit said.
He called for Caricom to properly analyse and position to take advantage of the “opportunities that will arise from this.”
“Let us therefore focus more closely on what needs to be done to strengthen Caricom, to make it more economically competitive and generate resources to sustain our togetherness.”
The chairman said he has taken the chair of Caricom at a time when the world is still in shock at Britain’s decision to leave the European Union after 43 years of leadership and at a time, when the rest of the world is moving toward regional integration in order to carve out an economic space in the global marketplace, and to balance the might of the emerging superpowers.
Meanwhile, Skerrit said the circumstances in the EU remain different to that of the Caribbean Community. According to him, there are two main reasons why Britain would want to leave the EU.
First, he said, is the historical fear of losing its sovereignty. According to him every country in Europe over the years, has been trying to conquer and rule Britain.
Second, he said, EU membership not only brings with it free movement, but also automatic access to welfare and other benefits.
“This created anxiety, as the average English voter saw membership of the EU as opening the floodgates for countless Europeans and refugees to pour into the country from any EU ports of entry, something that Britain could not afford indefinitely,” he told the audience.
He said already the political, economic and social fallout from Britain’s decision has brought about considerable concern within Britain, Europe and the rest of the world.
On the other hand he said, Caricom is a fulfilment of a longstanding aspiration of its peoples, an important staging post which has created a unique Caribbean civilisation.
He said too that the people of the Caribbean have demonstrated that “the human spirit is invincible”, as during the worst forms of deprivation, they continued to dream.
“In the midst of genocide, they dreamt of peace, in the midst of hate, they dreamt of tolerance and respect, in the midst of slavery, they dreamt of freedom, in the midst of poverty, they dreamt of prosperity.”
He said their ability to dream and strive for a better life, aptly describes the Caribbean.
According to Skerrit, since the advent of adult suffrage following World War Two, there has been considerable progress by the federation CARIFTA and Caricom.
“We now have representative governments, weaved the mandate to build nations and strive to realise the peoples’ vision to equitable distribution of the wealth created.
Let me remind us, that Caricom is primarily a community. It has been built on the powerful emotions of empathy and caring for each other. At the individual level, that fact is being reinforced whenever our peoples interact,” he affirmed.
He warned the Heads of Government that, “these are not easy times”, as the respective economies have been battered, both figuratively by global economic financial crises and literally, by natural disasters.
“Our resilience is being tested more than before, but we have proven time and again that we are strong.”
He said Caricom must now put in place building blocks to create even more opportunities than ever before.