The title of today’s essay is usually credited to the US baseball player, Yogi Berra, a sportsman more celebrated perhaps for the quirkiness of his expressions than for his exploits on the field, even though he was certainly no slouch there, winning more World Series rings than any other player in history. It was he who left us assertions such as, “It ain’t over till it’s over”, “You can observe a lot by just watching” and the perspicuous “A dime ain’t worth a nickel anymore”. In any event, he is reputed to have once claimed in his defence, “I never said most of the things I said”.
My borrowing of Mr Berra’s alleged tautology on this occasion emanates from my ongoing study of the Golding Report, as it will doubtless come to be called; the report of the CARICOM Review Commission appointed by Prime Minister Holness of Jamaica in July 2016 and chaired by Mr Bruce Golding, the former Prime Minister of Jamaica, 2007-2011.
I suppose that it is only natural that after an individual or country has been a member of an organization for a number of years, a sort of ennui sets in and he, she or it should feel the need to assess and review the benefits of that membership. And in his letter of appointment of the Commission, the Prime Minister made this clear when he referred to “the need for an in-depth examination of those aspects of our regional relationships within CARICOM that are not fully meeting their intended objectives”.
I was too young then to have appreciated the regional Federation experiment of the early 1960s, but I have supported, perhaps instinctually, its renaissance in the CARICOM idea. Indeed, as the Right Excellent Errol Barrow once intoned, I, as many others, have experienced and continue to experience regional integration in my daily existence. My profession requires me to be familiar with the laws of each jurisdiction in the region in the courses that I teach and research, I am married to an individual who was not born in this country, my work frequently requires me to enter the other member states and I enjoy immensely the various dishes prepared in the region. I have even served, albeit for a brief while as a justice of appeal in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court system. Moreover, my period of service on the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission has further endeared me to the notion of regional unity from the legal perspective. In sum, I am a quintessential Caribbean man.
None of this blinds me however to the actuality that the progress of our regional experiment has been one of “hold-and-nudge” so far rather than the fluent integration that would have been hoped for by its original architects. This might be owed to the inherent impracticability of the experiment itself, a mutual mistrust among the constituents or selfish and misplaced notions of sovereignty on the part of those responsible for implementing the decisions that may lead to deeper integration. I do not know for sure and a serious examination of the issue as happened with the appointment of the Golding Commission in Jamaica should also be conducted elsewhere in the region.
It may be that some are apprehensive of what such an intensive examination may reveal and are prepared rather to content themselves with face-saving platitudes as to the significance of each the few achievements and of the relative solidarity and comparatively brief existence of the experiment as against those of the European one.
Given the importance of the issue and the voluminousness of the Report, it is clear that a single essay in this space will scarcely suffice to do it justice, so that its adequate analysis may require at least a three-part essay. Today, I propose to examine briefly the Terms of Reference of the Commission and some aspects of its Executive Summary.
Of note among the eight terms of reference is that while these are focused understandably on the assessment of the value of Jamaica’s membership of the Community, they also engage the broader issues of the nature of the organization itself and its functionality.
So that while it was enjoined to “evaluate the effects that Jamaica’s participation in CARICOM has had on its economic growth and development with particular reference to trade in goods and services, investment, international competitiveness and employment”, and to “assess the benefits that Jamaica has derived through functional co-operation within CARICOM institutions and its framework”, it was also commissioned to “analyze CARICOM’s performance against the goals and objectives enunciated in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and to identify the causes of the shortcomings” (sic) and to “consider the question of the enlargement of the membership of CARICOM”. The arguably central issue of Jamaica’s relationship with the Caribbean Court of Justice beyond its original jurisdiction (viz. the appellate jurisdiction) was, according to the Report, was specifically excluded from the Commission’s mandate in light of the government’s intention for that to be determined by way of referendum.
It would appear that the Commission consulted widely with a distinguished group of regional personalities and also engaged populist opinion in the country with focus group studies in eight parishes across Jamaica.
Future contributions will treat the text of the report and its principal recommendations, but noteworthy in the Executive Summary is the Commission’s identification of the root causes of CARICOM’s lack of advancement as the “implementation deficit” so prevalent in regional existence. We talk big. It is a different story, however when we have to action our stated intentions. It is as if we are afraid of what we might achieve. The poet Kamau Brathwaite long ago identified a similar timidity in our cricket;
But is always the trouble wid we;
Too ‘fraid and too frighten.
Is all very well when it rosy and sweet
But leh murder start and bruggalungdung
You can’t find a man to hole up di side…
Jamaica has been bold enough in this case at least to ask the question.
To be continued…