A Heather Cole Article – Did We Miss the Boat?
I have previously written an article about the need to have a Federal Government in the Caribbean. CARICOM is but an economic union and was never intended to resolve political and social problems of the region. The reasons to revisit this topic are varied and the single most import that strike home today is that Barbados is experiencing a crisis of gun related crime. In addition to this, there is an unprecedented level of corruption that has been increasing since independence. Despite laws, rules and regulations, there is no body with the authority for oversight and implementation of action against the previous administration in Barbados. The notion that the political class may not have the desire to out each other is also a current reality. The underlying fact is that these island states are too small; everyone knows each other or their family; our court system is in shambles, files go missing, so does evidence and the length of time that it takes to pursue action in some instances signifies that justice being denied.
So where did we go wrong?
It was our failure to implement the WI Federation. It was four long years of struggle from 1958 to 1962 that ended up with the then leaders of the Federation walking away from a project that held the best intentions for the region. That action that led to Eric William’s famous words “one from ten leaves zero,” is currently responsible for 80% of the region’s social and political problems. Short sightedness and the struggle for power way back then set us up for failure. The failure of oversight to halt the actions of corrupt politicians, the failure to address the present crisis with action on gun related crime, the failure to have laws to address unique cases like land disputes, fraud and the recall of politicians.
From around the region there are a few cases that come to mind that makes one wonder if we had a federal government if such outrage would have occurred without punishment or redress. One was the Yugee Farrell case in St Vincent, where a young woman’s quality of life was at the mercy of political action; there is a mortgage crisis in Barbados which no one seems to be addressing; Scotiabank leaving the region, having sold its mortgages to a foreign entity that does not reside in the CARICOM and only the Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne is fighting on his own; treasonous acts by the speaker of the house in Guyana; there is a politician in St Lucia whom the people wanted to recall; the callous acts of corruption of the last Administration in Barbados; businessmen who are mysteriously awarded overpriced contracts and bribery; and the allegation of land fraud which seem to have found a home on the Barbadian landscape. In addition, we have gun related crime in islands that do not manufacture or import guns, yet they are not only available on the street but are daily committing murder.
Despite holding jurisdiction local police forces are simply not equipped to combat these types of crimes. In the USA, while each state has its own government and police force, there is also a federal government for the entire country which has its own policing force known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the FBI. The FBI steps in and takes over various types of cases where a local violation fits into a category for which it holds jurisdiction.
This is what is required for CARICOM states, a Federal government with its own police force and a Federal Court system. There would be a local court system and a federal court in each jurisdiction. Recruits from across the region would be utilized effectively by having them serve where they are not domiciled, and persons moved periodically to prevent contamination of the system.
Putting the Task Force on the streets in affected areas in Barbados will not resolve the problem. When they are gone the guns will re appear as they have year after year. Although his presence among the affected is welcomed, the Attorney General’s pictures giving golden handshakes and smiles no longer cuts it. These are just knee-jerk reactions. None of these are a short- term plans. It should have been announced by the Attorney General that he is going after the importers of the guns and the persons who let them bring the guns into the country, with the intent to prosecute them. The source of the problem is not being addressed. One must ask themselves how many times we must come back to this cross road and go away knowing that nothing will change. We are currently using the same old methods to resolve crime and expect to obtain different results.
Putting the Task Force on the streets in affected areas in Barbados will not resolve the problem. When they are gone the guns will re appear as they have year after year. Although his presence among the affected is welcomed, the Attorney General’s pictures giving golden handshakes and smiles no longer cuts it. These are just knee-jerk reactions. However, finally he has announced that he is going after the importers of the guns and by extension this should include the persons who let them bring the guns into the country. One must ask themselves how many times we must come back to this cross road and in the pass nothing has been done to effect change. We cannot use the same old methods to resolve crime and expect to obtain different results.
We may have missed that boat fifty-seven years ago but that does not mean that a new attempt of implementing a Federal Government will not work. The region will always be constrained by its size and must work to together to overcome its challenges. Now that we know of the source of the problems and their long-term effects, the challenge is to put in place an effective institution to effect remedy. The challenge will also include the heads of Government of all the islands realizing that there are facing the same old problems but needing new solutions; and not to be focused on insularity. Just as they believe that the islands are one economic union and some utilize the Caribbean Court of Justice as their Appellate Court, they must overcome the fear of becoming a political union.
It is time to move on to a higher level of regional integration with an aim to resolve the political and social problems by creating the institutions that are meant to do this. We cannot go back to 1962 and make the then batch of leaders change their minds of putting four years to waste. We have a current crop of leaders who have new ideas about the development of this region and its people and with new ideas come opportunities.
Herein lies an opportunity. The simple requirement is to have a heavy weight champion for this cause not to resuscitate the old but to create a Federal Government for CARICOM states. A Federal Government that will as part of its mandate, maintain a police force and a court system to investigate and redress a range of violations for which it will have jurisdiction. The only person that comes to mind is our own trail blazer. Despite the fact of a 30 to 0 victory being a great achievement, the icing on the cake would be for our Prime Minister, The Honourable Mia Amor Mottley to not only create and implement a Federal Government of individual States of CARICOM but to also become its first head. It would truly define her legacy, as the vision of ‘Building The Best Barbados Together’ can translate into building the best political union of the CARICOM states together.