Regional Air Travel Prohibitive – MUST be Prioritised by Do-little Governments

The indefatigable social commentator @KammieHolder tagged the blogmaster recently on a Facebook comment to highlight an issue he was having at the time with intra regional travel. The following interesting article written by @BrianSamuel posted to Caribbean Journal severl years ago was the result. The content is as relevant today as it was when it was written – Blogmaster


The Case for an Eastern Caribbean Ferry

By Caribbean Journal Staff 

By S Brian Samuel
Op-Ed Contributor

There’s no cheap travel within the Caribbean. Unlike Greece and other island archipelagos, virtually all travel within the Caribbean is by air. And as we all know, travelling by air within the Caribbean is, to put it mildly, “challenging”. For starters it costs a fortune to fly. As at mid-2014, average LIAT air fares were more than four times higher than intra-European air fares, on a per-mile basis. It often costs more to fly to a neighbouring Caribbean island than to New York.

Between 2010 and 2014, LIAT’s average fares increased by about 40 percent. It would be tempting to put this increase down to higher fuel prices; but sadly, this is not the case. Although global oil prices did increase over this period; given that fuel generally accounts for no more than half of an airline’s operating costs; it is evident that “something else” has been driving up LIAT’s prices. Whatever the reason, it is the beleaguered Caribbean traveller that bears the cost.

Not only that – it takes forever. Last month I did six takeoffs and landings in one day, to get from Trinidad to Saint Thomas. This was a new world record, for me at any rate. Six flights by themselves wouldn’t be so bad but it’s all the palaver in between. You get off the plane, get strip searched in the transit lounge; then get back on the same plane. It’s enough of a hassle when things go right; not to mention when things go wrong. As it does. Often.

We don’t visit each other. Our politicians talk endlessly about Caribbean unity; yet at the border we’re given the third degree. Only a small percentage of intra-regional travellers are on holiday; most are flying because they have to. It’s therefore not surprising that intra-Caribbean travel has been declining: LIAT’s passenger numbers have shrunk from 1.1 million in 2008 to 850,000 in 2013. Despite this falloff in its revenue base, LIAT last year invested US$260 million in a complete replacement of its fleet, switching from the tried and trusted Dash-8 to ATRs. Would you invest US$260 million of your own money into such a failing airline? Congratulations; you just did; LIAT’’s loans are all guaranteed by its government shareholders.

Yet we’ve got plenty of reasons to visit each other. The Caribbean has no shortage of carnivals, festivals, regattas or dozens of other reasons to have a riproaringly wanton time for a few days – these are but a few:

CARIBBEAN FESTIVALS: WHEN Party Time Is All The Time

  1. Trinidad Carnival –           Feb/March
  2. Dominica Carnival –           Feb/March
  3. Carriacou Maroon Festival –           April
  4. St Lucia Jazz Festival –           May
  5. St Kitts Music Festival –           June
  6. St Lucia Carnival –           July
  7. Barbados Cropover –           Early August
  8. Carriacou Regatta –           Early August
  9. Grenada Carnival –           Mid-August
  10. St Kitts Carnival –           December

You cannot buy a seat for love nor money. During carnival time in the Caribbean (i.e. most of the time), air travel in the region becomes murderous; because heaven forbid that LIAT would do something as radical as putting on extra flights in response to regional demand spikes. Every year a Trinidadian ferry does a special charter for Grenada Carnival; and every year it’s filled to the gills. But for most of the year we do not travel – because we can’t afford to. This is when we are crying out for a ferry.

We talk about sports tourism; yet it is prohibitively expensive to send sporting teams on tour in the Caribbean. This year the English cricket team – and their fanatical followers the Barmy Army – will descend on the Caribbean. And all the games are being played in the Eastern Caribbean. Can you imagine a creatively packaged ferry tour, catering to boisterous English cricket fans, following their team around the Caribbean? They would love it! Instead, we deliver them into the arms of LIAT – and say a prayer. This is when we are crying out for a ferry.

There are dozens of regional events, where attendance would undoubtedly be much greater, were it not for the high travel costs involved. Church groups, youth groups, community groups – just about any group of Caribbean people love to go on an “outing”. We used to go on outings to neighbouring islands, by inter-island schooners. We don’t do that anymore; nowadays we fly. Or rather we don’t fly; because it costs too much. There are family connections between all the islands of the Eastern Caribbean; everyone has that that they have not seen for too long. Repeat: this is when we are crying out for a ferry.

But wait, we DO have ferries. Indeed, there are 11 ferry companies currently operating in the Eastern Caribbean, running a total of 21 boats. These range from modern fast roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) ships that accommodate passengers, cars and trucks; to rusty old cargo “schooners” So, the question has to be asked: If there is this crying need for inter-island ferry services, why don’t more ferry companies offer cross-border services?

“It’s a nightmare!” say the ferry operators; with regard to the bureaucracy, cost and time involved in taking a vessel from one island to another. Only one company, L’Express des Iles out of Martinique, operates across international borders. All the other ferries stick within their national boundaries: Trinidad to Tobago; Grenada to Carriacou; St. Vincent to the Grenadines, etc.

The problem stems from the archaic, cumbersome rules regulating international marine trading in the Caribbean. These rules desperately need to be simplified and harmonized, so that all regional jurisdictions will be reading from the same book – literally.

Ferries are cheaper than flying. The average fare charged by the 11 ferry companies in the Eastern Caribbean works out to US$1.06 per mile. This is about 65 percent of the average cost per mile of LIAT fares, as at mid-2014.

Speed is expensive. One of the main determinants of ferry fares is the speed of the vessel. Fares charged by the region’s fast ferry operators are almost twice as high as the traditional slow boats. Sailing time between Trinidad and Grenada is 6 hours at 15 knots, and 4.5 hours at 20 knots. However, that additional 5 knots would result in a doubling of the fare – speed is expensive in boats.

Ferries are for short distances. Realistically, ferry voyages should be no more than about 4 to 5 hours duration; unless they are overnight trips. You have to take account of sea conditions. Hence, it is not feasible to consider a ferry route from Trinidad to Barbados; otherwise the boat would earn the same nickname as one particularly uncomfortable regional ferry: the vomit comet!

Don’t forget the tourists. In a survey conducted in 2014 among the UK’s leading tour operators; 75 percent of respondents felt that many of their clients (10 percent or more) would be interested in using a ferry service in the Eastern Caribbean. In 2013, the Eastern Caribbean received 1.3 million tourists; 10 percent of that is 130,000 potential ferry customers. That’s a pretty good base to start with.

Potential ferry routes: Based on established linkages among the sub-regions of the Eastern Caribbean, possible ferry routes include:

  • Northern Caribbean: Historically there are close links among the islands of the Northern Caribbean; where people move freely, seemingly immune from visa and other restrictions. The sub-region is served by ferries from Antigua to Barbuda, and from St. Kitts to Nevis; but there is no regular regional service.
  • Barbados-Saint Lucia: Both islands are major regional tourist destinations; however they offer vastly different products. Tour operators report that although their clients are interested in multi-destination holidays; they don’t like to fly – particularly on LIAT. A fast, safe ferry between both islands, where the journey becomes a scenic attraction in itself, would be popular among tourists. And, importantly, Saint. Lucia is the easiest point from which to sail to Barbados, where the Atlantic waters can sometimes be “a bit frisky”.
  • The Grenadines: The quintessential island-hopping experience; including the world famous Tobago Cays. There is a great deal of inter-island movement among the Southern Grenadines, most of which occurs in small informal boats and goes completely unrecorded. There is no scheduled ferry service between Carriacou (Grenada) and Union Island (Saint Vincent); you have to charter a private boat to cross this short stretch of water, from whence you can pick up a ferry to the rest of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
  • Trinidad-Grenada: “Scratch a Trini; you find a Grenadian.” There are strong linkages between Trinidad and Grenada. Successive administrations from both countries have tried to launch ferry projects – all without success. Between LIAT and CAL there are about 5 direct flights per day; plus connections via Saint Vincent and Barbados. For low-cost travel, many people sail on the cargo vessels plying the Grenada-Trinidad trade; which are limited to 12 passengers per trip, and are far from comfortable. There is no doubt that a ferry service, charging fares significantly lower than air fares, could double the size of the travelling public between Trinidad and Grenada – or more.

If a ferry service is so badly needed; why hasn’t it happened up to now? Caribbean Rose, Bedy Lines Limited, Fast Caribbean Ltd: just three of the failed project initiatives within living memory – there are many, many more. There are many reasons why these projects failed to launch, including:

  • Most of them originated from unsolicited proposals submitted to one government; there has been no coordinated regional ferry project involving all the regional governments.
  • The economics of Caribbean fast ferry projects are often marginal, with untried routes, high operating costs and limited ability to pay on the part of the travelling public.
  • None of the participating governments have thus far been willing to commit subsidy funds to a regional ferry project.
  • Some of the vessels proposed by investors were not suitable for the intended purpose.

Is a regional ferry viable? I do not know; but I suspect that it could be. With the right structure and support; and given enough time for the concept of inter-island travel by ferry to catch on (again); I believe that a regional ferry service could become a self-sustaining commercial enterprise. It would probably require a subsidy, at least (hopefully only!) in the early years.

The key is low fares. People will not go through the extra travel time, unless there are substantial dollar savings to be made. Although a ferry would be expected to take away some demand from air travel; the real benefit of a ferry would be to expand the market, by making regional more affordable than at present.

You need lots of bodies. Let’s look at for example the Trinidad to Grenada route. Based on my own back of envelope calculations; a ferry would require about 120 passengers to break even on a Trinidad to Grenada voyage. This is based on current regional prices for diesel fuel.

Let’s drive. How difficult can it be, for the governments in the region to get together and do away with the cumbersome rules currently regulating the temporary movement of motor vehicles across Caribbean borders? There are plenty of international precedents to learn from. Apparently, the simple is impossible. But allowing the inter-island movement of vehicles would be a game-changer for intra-Caribbean travel; just look at Europe.

Public or private? After our grim experiences of government-run airlines throughout the Caribbean, the last thing we need is a “LIAT-on-sea”. Although governments of the region would play a critical role in launching and regulating the regional ferry; governments should leave the business of business where it belongs: in the private sector.

Donors support is essential. Undoubtedly, some international organization will have to take a leading role, in order to shepherd this regional project from concept to reality. The World Bank is ideally placed to lead the effort, but let us not forget our home-grown development institutions: CARICOM, CDB and the OECS.

The best way to get the best deal is to bid it out. Project preparation is an extremely expensive business; and someone has to make that “leap of faith” to take the project forward. In other words: spend money – a lot of it. Once we have this project champion/benefactor; we can then get on with the hard work of structuring and bidding out a regional ferry operation.

Just do it. This is a project that’s been dying to happen, for a long time. With the right support from regional governments and development institutions, this long-awaited, much-needed project can finally become a reality.

This article grew out of a consulting assignment Samuel undertook for the World Bank in preparing a paper entitled: “Improving Eastern Caribbean States’ Regional Competitiveness Through Tourism.”

S. Brian Samuel can be reached at stevenbriansamuel@gmail.com.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.

Check Out the Real Situation…

There is the popular expression credited to Sir Winston Churchill ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’. It is believed Churchill’s reference had to do with an alliance formed after World War II between himself (UK), Stalin (Soviet Union) and Roosevelt (USA) which resulted in the formation of the United Nations. It is possible that out of chaos can come order to quote another.

It is ironic the world is again witnessing a crisis that if left unchecked could escalate to nuclear war. The battle between Russia – successor to the Soviet Union – and the Ukraine – former member of the Soviet Union – is another indictment of mankind. What cannot be denied is that the conflict will continue to negatively impact the global economy because Russia and Ukraine are major suppliers of wheat, oil and other commodities. There is also the collateral effect of speculators who influence price in the global financial markets.

What an epoch unfolding!

The conflict in Eastern Europe lest we forget is occurring at a time the global community is waging another ‘battle’ against the Covid 19 pandemic. It is a time we are reminded by members of the nonsecular fraternity that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places” – Ephesians 6:12. To pragmatists the opportunity to create opportunities arising from crises is the goal while others remain anchored to being idealistic with perennial talk of end times. Truth be told for the blogmaster’s life and parents before this has been the refrain – soon come. 

Conscious of the need to promote in the Community the highest level of efficiency in the production of goods and services especially with a view to maximising foreign exchange earnings on the basis of international competitiveness, attaining food security, achieving structural diversification and improving the standard of living of their peoples;

RTOC

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine hopefully will galvanize a lazy political class to focus on food security for the region. Even if it is at the eleventh hour. Ever since the Treaty of Chaguaramas was established members have failed to exploit the resources of the region for collective benefit of citizens. The approach by leaders of CARICOM has been to feed inflated egos by luxuriating in the high offices of the land. Citizens of the region must hold themselves accountable by raising the decibel level on a dissenting voice, be as passionate to protest as is presently being demonstrated because of the Russia/Ukraine conflict. 

The same can be hoped for regarding if we have learned from the Covid 19 pandemic. Are we satisfied our businesses have re-engineered storefronts to efficiently deliver products and services to the public if the pandemic escalates or another emerges? What about the public service – what is the status of the project to make it fit for purpose? Should another pandemic or event occur that requires a shutdown to face to face service, does it mean a large number of public servants sent home to suck indefinitely from the nipples of taxpayers? 

It is two years and counting since the Covid 19 pandemic started and eight years the Russia/Ukraine conflict has been in the making with fighting in the Donbas regions. Are our leaders fiddling while CARICOM is burning?

Adrian Loveridge Column – Target Bubble Countries

Just over two months ago (10th August), I questioned the wisdom of granting four airlines either new to Barbados or restoring previous services, permission to operate inter-Caribbean routes, presumably to help soak up any loss created by the failure of LIAT (1974) Ltd.

What was even more surprising is that all four carriers responded positively to the invitation before the reduction in the current crippling airline taxes promised by our leaders many months ago.

With all three (Canada, United States and United Kingdom) of our major markets now considered high risk and a recent poll conducted in the UK at the end of September, indicating that only 11 per cent of adults who participated in the survey were planning to travel internationally in the next six months.

The question comes back to the same one posed before, why are we not at least targeting lower risk areas like the announced Caricom Caribbean Community Travel Bubble arrangement , that was slated to be in effect by 18th September?

With carefully crafted hotel/flight inclusive packages, this would at least give some hope to the beleaguered airlines, several of which are fighting for their mere existence.

The ‘Bubble’ was agreed to at an emergency session meeting of the Caricom heads of Government on11th September at which they acknowledged ‘that the past six months have been a very challenging period globally and regionally, as countries have struggled to cope with the effects of the novel coronavirus’.

Noting ‘that for Caricom, it had been particularly difficult, given the high dependence in most of the economies on the travel and tourism sectors’.

The Government heads originally agreed that travellers from countries within the Bubble will be allowed entry without being subjected to PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing prior to arrival and would also not have to undergo quarantine restrictions.

Sadly last week (10th October), the Daily Observer (reported that Antigua’s Minister of Information, Melford Nicholas had advised that this had been revised and ‘it was decided that a negative PCR test will now have to be presented’, creating further doubt and confusion.

Travellers may however be subjected to screening on arrival and on the condition and must confirm they did not transit or travel to a high-risk country, either 14 or 21 days preceding arrival, the duration depending on which advisory you read.

Are we back to the same old stumbling block, the inability to follow-through and implement cross regional policies, in anything approaching a timely manner?

The outcome is that already some of these enticed carriers are starting to cancel scheduled and advertised services, as there is simply not sufficient demand to sustain four additional airlines at this time.

Could that demand, at least partially, be created with innovative marketing strategies and more affordable airfares?

Caricom Engaged in Racial Distancing

The average Black West Indian should be aware of the The Middle Passage. As a youngster the blogmaster recalls his effort to visualize Africans shackled and crammed into boat to be transported from Africa to the West Indies and sold into bondage.  It case we forget there was a dark period in the history of the world Blacks were legally regarded as ‘chattel’, no better than a mule or donkey.

The lineage of Black people living in the Caribbean means there will always be an inextricable connection between the West Indies and Africa. It is unfortunate our people have allowed North American and Eurocentric influences to permeate our psyche to wreak havoc to our identity.

It was reported last week that 54 African countries signed a letter asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to schedule a debate on police brutality against Black people around the world. It is a matter of record the killing of George Floyd in the USA has triggered a Black Lives Movement reminiscent of the 50s and 60s when MLK, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and others were at the forefront of the fight for civil and political rights of our people.

…In a letter written on behalf of 54 African countries, Burkina Faso’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva asked the UN’s top rights body for an “urgent debate” on “racially inspired human rights violations, police brutality against people of African descent and the violence against the peaceful protests that call for these injustices to stop…

As a proud Black man the blogmaster must share his disappointment at the lack of a strident response to the killing of George Floyd by CARICOM. All reasonable people agree it is a manifestation of institutionalized  racism in the USA and global citizens have been galvanized to protest the need for urgent reform.

A scan of the official website of  Caricom.org reveals no adequate communications posted to capture the prevailing sentiment of the people living in the region. Our Caricom leaders under the current chairmanship of Mia Mottley have failed us at a pivotal moment in the history of the world. Our nexus to Africa created the opportunity to add our voice to those of the 54 African countries who represent the Mother Country. How are we expected to forge and improve relations with African countries but are miles apart on how to correctly react to the matter of the Black Lives Movement? This has nothing to do with jumping on any bandwagon. Again the idea of cognitive dissonance keeps recurring. What message are our leaders sending to the masses?

It is no wonder we have to tolerate individuals who lack the understanding of the moment by insisting we should let the USA fight this matter alone. Why are White people protesting around the globe? Some of us have family residing in the USA. Some of us have relatives studying in the USA. Some of us may have reason to travel to the USA. Most of us are Black. Most important, a strike against humanity is simply that and should evoke the same response in humans everywhere.

Even the Germans are protesting for crissakes!

The poor response by Caricom to describe it mildly is a disappointment and although the perfect scenario is to strike when hot, it is not too late to offer redress. Now is not the time to be apolitical. Now is not the time to engage in racial distancing.

 

 

 

 

 

Baby steps – Giant Undertaking

Submitted by The Mahogany Coconut Group

As the Caribbean region diligently turns to what is hopefully the “new norm” or the post COVID-19 era, we note the tentative baby steps, in what will be a giant undertaking. Caribbean social and political culture is steeped in the “creep before you can walk” philosophy, and from all indications, this gradualism or “old norm”, will continue, as we confront the “new norm”. It seems almost like a cautionary tale affliction.

The MCG understands this approach because the indelible scars of a people still caught in defeating the psychological remnants of brutal slavery and now persistent post slave and post-colonial eras , cannot be expected , to be exceptionally capable or aggressively confident of understanding or even capturing and developing their true worth. We therefore always seem to be taking baby steps in socio economic development.

From the Federation experiment to the present post-independence period, we seem to be creeping forever. This almost pathetic reality has frustrated progressive forces since the mid-sixties. The failure of the Grenada Revolution was almost the final nail in the coffin of radicalism, but we persevere.

The COVID-19 has exposed this frightening and self-defeating reality. When will we, the mighty people we are, RISE as was instructed by Marcus Garvey, so many decades ago?

William Skinner
Communications Officer MCG
5/6/2020

Remembering Carmeta – Food for Thought

The following blog reflects concern about food security in a Trinidad and Tobago context, however,  the message rings true for the majority of countries in the region including Barbados. It raises the perennial concern that Caricom has not been able to implement solutions to address concerns about the need for food security for its member.  Thanks to Tee White sharing the link with the blogmaster.

David, Barbados Underground

 


Food for Thought- Food Sovereignity in Times of Crisis

Yesterday the Prime Minister announced that all restaurants and food vendors will be ordered to cease the sale of food until the COVID-19 virus is under control in T&T. Rowley’s announcement seemed to have inspired a civil war as many have been led to believe that this decision was the result of pressure from disgruntled doubles vendors. However while the country is locked in a senseless argument about whether KFC is “essential” or not, a larger, more pressing issue that has haunted our country for our entire history looms larger than ever. That is, the question of food sovereignity.

As a small island nation with a dormant manufacturing sector, almost every item that is consumed- from clothes, to electronics and especially food- is imported from abroad. But as the COVID infection continues to rip throughout the world without abating, entire industries are being forced to shut down due to concerns about the safety of workers and the wider population. If this virus isn’t brought under control, there is the very real possibility of our nation having to forgo imported goods for as long as the world needs for this virus to relent.

This is a frightening possibility, especially given the fact that our agriculture industry isn’t even a major industry anymore. What would the future hold for the 1.3 million people who live here with our source of sustainance gone? “Too late, too late!” shall be the cry as we would finally understand how important it would have been for our nation to feed itself.

What can the government do (perhaps more poignantly- what would an MSJ government do) in order to revive agriculture in a way that can save us from impending disaster?

It begins with incentivising agriculture. At this point, this is where defenders of past and present agri-policy would interject and list the various incentives that exist for farmers locally. However, none of these incentives address a fundamental problem affecting farmers- the purchasing of agricultural produce.

By importing cheap food that has been mass produced on industrial farms in other countries, we have flooded our own nation with cheap produce which has made it difficult for local farmers to compete. The higher cost of local goods have discouraged both retailers and consumers from buying local. As a result, farmers continue to struggle despite the numerous incentives that are available. However these incentives mean nothing if farmers can’t even get their produce sold.

Therefore it is important that the purchase of local goods are guaranteed by law. Under the MSJ, all supermarkets and other retailers must first purchase products from local farmers before turning to outside sources to fill their shelves. In doing so not only would we provide a stable and steady source of income for local farmers but we would also cut down on the loss of foreign exchange- the shortage of which has triggered yet another crisis in T&T. In addition to mandating the purchase of local food products, the cost of these items will be offset through government subsidies. Why has this not been done before? This oversight can be easily attributed to apathy and nonchalance, but we see something more sinister. The retailers and traders locally have amassed great fortunes through the buying and re-selling of imported goods. From supermarkets to fast food restaurants, the business elite have been able to influence government policy for their benefit and theirs alone. Funds generated from this un-innovative business model have been used to fund political parties and keep politicians in their pockets- hence the lack of interest by both major parties to develop agriculture.

There are other reasons to avoid foreign food products. Last year, the world was horrified as we witnessed the destruction of the Amazon rainforest at the hands of the Brazilian government. The Amazon is being destroyed because the president of Brazil has practically sold large swaths of the forest to agribusinessmen, who are turning the Lungs of the Earth into mega-farms. Many meat, vegetable and beverage products are imported from Brazil into T&T every year. By turning to Brazil for food we are indirectly contributing to the ongoing destruction of the Amazon and the genocide of indigenous people living there. It should also be mentioned here that this will no doubt contribute to climate change, something that can seriously affect our lives as Caribbean people.

Another hindrance to local agriculture has been the habit of both government and opposition parties alike to use fertile farmland for conscruction sites. This is because housing continues to be used as a political tool and not the human right that it is. A separate article about the state of housing will be written in due time; but to address the the topic of agriculture, rest assured that not a single inch of farmland would ever be used for construction projects under an MSJ government. Arable land is a limited resource, especially on an island as small as ours. Every effort must be taken to ensure that such land is protected and utilised in the manner that it ought to be used in.

The establishment of community-based cooperatives will also be encouraged. Beginning at a local government level, each Borough Corporation will establish a number of community farms in order to meet the demands of the population. It should be highlighted that some local government districts (especially those in the built-up, urbanised areas) may not have access to land. This is where indoor and vertical farming can be introduced to ensure that every district can feed its people despite the lack of available land space.

We hope with all our hearts that this COVID-19 crisis passes by without any major fallout for T&T. However even when that happens, we are still far from being out of the woods. For there will be many long battles to fight in the very near future. Because with climate change comes the possibility of droughts, hurricanes and flash floods- things that will no doubt put a strain on our national resources and especially our food supply. One of the ways China was able to contain the COVID-19 virus was due in part to their stockpiling of food supplies for the population. During the course of its long history, the Chinese have had to endure many calamities- natural disasters, disease, war, etc. So it is no wonder that they have figured out that the best way to ensure survival for everyone is to begin by simply making it possible for each person to have a plate of food. We ought to take a page out of China’s book in this regard and turn to our farmers for our survival as a nation.

 

Jamaica JOINS the USA to Snub Caricom, Again

The blogmaster has been observing the blowback to the visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Jamaica where a few countries in the region were invited to participate. Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s triggered the exchanges when she announced what any sensible person in the region should support.

I am conscious that if this country does not stand for something, then it will fall for anything,” she said. “As chairman of Caricom, it is impossible for me to agree that my foreign minister should attend a meeting with anyone to which members of Caricom are not invited.

Prime Minister of Barbados – Mia Mottley

Prime Minister Holness of Jamaica gave a flowery and empty explanation in response to Prime Minister Mottley and other countries in the region that took exception to the snub by Jamaica and the USA to CARICOM. Jamaica has the right as a sovereign nation to pursue bilateral initiatives with another country – why did Holness feel compelled to state an obvious point? The issue Mr. Prime Minister Holness is that Jamaica is a member of CARICOM. What is CARICOM you may ask? Here is a snippet to serve as a reminder:

…CARICOM rests on four main pillars: economic integration; foreign policy coordination;human and social development; and security.  These pillars  underpin  the  stated objectives of our  Community –

  •  to improve standards of living and work;
  •  the full employment of labor and other factors of production;
  •  accelerated, coordinated and sustained economic development and convergence;
  •  expansion of trade and economic relations with Third States;
  •  enhanced levels of international competitiveness;
  •  organization for increased production and productivity;
  • achievement of a greater measure of economic leverage;
  • effectiveness of Member States in dealing with Third States, groups of States and entities of any description;and
  • the enhanced coordination of Member States’ foreign and foreign economic policies and enhanced functional cooperation…

Caricom.org

The post meeting briefing was littered with references to CARICOM which confirm matters pertaining to the regional movement were discussed. This supports Mottley’s position that Caricom should have been FORMALLY accorded an invitation and at ‘minimum’ Mottley as Chair represent members in the spirit of enhancing coordination of Member States’ foreign and foreign economic policies and enhanced functional cooperation

The quote from the St. Kitts and Nevis representative Foreign Affairs Minister Mark Brantley sums up the current state of Caricom for the blogmaster:-

I think we would have been foolish to pass up on that opportunity. The US has been a good friend to the region, and I think it is a relationship that matters,” he said, while acknowledging that St Kitts and Nevis was not at the table for earlier talks between US President Donald Trump and a select regional group in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, centred on trade and security.

The Gleaner

A reminder this is the second time the USA snubbed Caricom.

Foreign Policy in Barbados and CARICOM

Submitted by Kemar J. D Stuart, President of The Young Democrats

Foreign Policy discussion has not been a strong pillar of discussion within the political environment as it is perceived the voting public may not be too keen on engaging political parties on their foreign policy positions during campaigning or debate time. However after last May 24th 2018 general election an ethos of international relations came into the limelight where the Barbados Prime Minister’s engagement of the African Continent has brought an interest to understanding foreign affairs and the reason for frequent travel to foreign nations.

Through a CARICOM initiative a joint diplomatic mission in Kenya was opened in December 2019 on behalf of member countries of CARICOM governments. This diplomatic mission is the first of its kind on the African continent for Barbados and other CARICOM member states. Such an initiative under the Treaty of Chaguaramas, would be undertaken by the Council for Foreign and Community relations however picturesque discussion of information surrounding impending trade agreements would be more substantial.

While Barbados and individual CARICOM states may have individual nation to nation relationships with African countries there is currently no trade agreement between CARICOM and any African countries. What exist are bilateral arrangements and double taxation agreements which are limited in exploration i.e. Barbados and its planned High Commission to Ghana, the removal of Visa requirements for nationals from eight African countries. Citizens must differentiate the difference between collective CARICOM Foreign policy and Barbados individual Foreign policy. Given reluctance to debate a clear Foreign Policy position before committing Barbados to such, the Barbadian public learns of its Foreign policy position in overseas press conferences at the signing of unknown agreements by the country’s Foreign Minister.

The future of Caribbean diplomats must not only be in a position to exercise their functions as representatives of their Governments but should also have a thorough understanding of trade, finance, investment and technology in order to promote exports, tourism and investment including the opening up of traditional and emerging markets for commerce and business . Given that the Cotonou Agreement between the European Union (EU) and African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of states is coming to an end the thrust of foreign policy must be deeper than cultural links and the commonality of being ‘black’. Barbados and the Caribbean currently transmit more cultural impulses to African than it receives from the Continent so the premise of negotiatons must be to derive benefits for the Caribbean in the industries listed above. 2020 is an interesting year to hear the policy position of CARICOM and Africa and the policy position of Barbados and Africa at a bilateral level within an economic development space.

More than 1/3 of West Indians live abroad, as a foreign policy position Barbados and CARICOM states should consider CARIcities within metropolitan states. CARIcities involves establishing collective commercial facilities, legal advisory services, West Indian Banks, outreach and research centers from the UWI and other institutions of collective representation of West Indian ideals. However, we gatherin 2020.

 

Barbados Pushing Regional Narrative

One of the noticeable marks Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley has been making early in her tenure is on the regional front.  By contrast former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart was silent and usurped the leadership role Barbados has played historically in the region. Prime Minister Mia Mottley at the 2019 Caribbean Forum on Regional Transformation for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth recommitted Barbados to the CSME project.  She stressed managed migration a la Canada and greater communication must be the focus to deepen regional integration. Following in the footsteps of her BLP predecessor Owen Arthur there is an intent by Mottley- who has lead for CSME- to expand the fiscal and financial space to the benefit of tiny Barbados.

An example: initially the blogmaster was critical of Senator Alphea Wiggins’ appointment as Special Envoy with a mandate to develop a strategic partnership with Suriname.   With a large gathering in parliament why not appoint a member of parliament? Feedback in this space proffered that the  resume of Wiggins the diplomat is ideally suited to the task at hand. Time will tell.

Barbadians have been told by Wiggins about land donated to Barbados by Suriname – in a government to government deal – to be utilized on a pilot basis by local farmers. Although Wiggins has expressed disappointment at the weak response to the opportunity provided to local farmers and private sector there is hope the mindset of our local actors will change from being inwardly focus. In 2013 resident billionaire Sir Kyffin Simpson was reported to have significantly invested in an agriculture project in Guyana.

The farm, located in Santa Fe in the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo region some 231 miles (or 371 km) south-west of Georgetown, will be producing rice, corn, soya, cow beans, guar and eventually moso bamboo trees primarily for export. Already 10 000 acres are being prepared for cultivation and this will be extended by another 30 000 acres as production is steadily increased. Sir Kyffin has the option of tripling this acreage if the venture proves successful – Sir Kyffin Simpson Shows Leadership Investing in Agriculture

Last week at a business forum to promote trading opportunities in Suriname and Guyana was held in Barbados – opportunities identified agriculture, agro-processing, construction, renewable energy, tourism, education, and services. To add impetus to the message being championed by government, Minister Sandra Husbands with responsibility for  foreign trade could have co-opted support from Sir Kyffin or designate to update on his investment in Guyana.  Local private sector actors sitting on the fence needs to be persuaded to shed a risk averse mindset.

The blogmaster supports the renewed effort to deepen regional integration.  All sensible people will agree small islands in Caricom must do better to improve avenues for functional cooperation. It should be obvious to those with an average level of discernment that both Jamaica and Bahamas in the North share no great appetite for CSME – maybe just for the movement of the unskilled.  The alternative approach by Barbados to create opportunities with our neighbours in the South is a countervailing strategy to salvage the CSME initiative.

The idea to have Barbadian capital and technical resources combined with Guyanese and Suriname significant land and natural resources to the benefit of both countries in large scale agriculture and other opportunities is an approach which keeps hope alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Adrian Loveridge Column – Is Antigua Based Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority Threat to Airline Industry?

After trying to avoid the subject intentionally for many years, is it now the time to focus all our attention that any change in the proposed majority beneficial ownership in LIAT (1974) Ltd could bring?

Following a whole pile of forays into competing with LIAT over the past couple of decades, which included Carib Express, RedJet, Caribbean Star and Sun, is now an opportune time to tempt other private sector airlines into our marketplace, to finally give some real competition and drive down fares?

To our south, the discovery and exploitation of substantial oil deposits off the coast of Guyana is already dramatically changing accommodation offerings and basic infrastructure. Additional airlift is already in place and this will only grow over the next few years.

Time will tell, if the Government of Guyana will plan for long term benefit of its citizens and channel some of this vast revenue into a sovereign wealth fund, like Norway did, which is now the largest of its kind in the world.

To the north, privately owned airlines like InterCaribbean Airways are continuing to expand and are currently pushing south as far as St. Lucia. Their aircraft fleet include eight 30-seat Embraer 120’s, two 19 seat Twin Otters, one 9 seat Britten Norman Islander and a Citation Jet which is used for executive charters. The airline presently operate to 22 cities in 13 countries, many of which do not have existing direct or one-stop connections to the south of the region.

The Embraer 120* has a range of 1,750 kilometers or 1,088 miles, with a cruise speed of 298 knots or 343 miles per hour, so ideally suited for mid-distance Caribbean routes. *source Wikipedia.

The St. Maarten based Winair airline, while Government owned, has previously expressed an interest in operating to more southern Caribbean destinations including Barbados. Their fleet includes ATR 42 – 300/320 aircraft with 48 seats which are wet-leased from Air Antilles*.

Air Antilles, the French West Indian carrier, already operates to Barbados, and like Winair, has some existing code sharing flight partnerships, but could they be encouraged to step-up capacity, especially if that helps feed additional French metropolitan and continental European visitors.

The biggest fly in the ointment might be the past record of various Governments and politicians who have interfered in the granting of route rights to airlines, interested in starting services.

A recent example is the Civil Aviation Minister of St. Lucia, Guy Joseph, pointing out to the media, that a number of airlines were seeking to operate in and out of that island but encountering difficulties acquiring the requisite licenses.

He went on to add, St. Lucia has hinted at the possibility of leaving the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) claiming that the Antigua-based organization was hampering the development of the airline industry there.

I think all our policymakers have to be reminded that across the Caribbean, our hotels only managed an average annual occupancy of 63 per cent in 2018.

Of course, it doesn’t stop there.

Every other tourism related business is negatively affected by those empty rooms and massive employment opportunities lost, with its profound economic consequence across the Caribbean.

The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Free Movement and the CARICOM National

A few weeks ago, I conjectured in this space as to who precisely could be “the enemy” in a charge levelled against a member of one branch of the local Defence Force for communicating with the enemy. I wrote then, “I am almost certain that there may be such an offence, but I am still in wonder as to who or what constitutes an enemy of Barbados and why and what would a soldier be communicating with and to such an entity. There has been no further clarification up to the time of writing this. Are we no longer “friends of all, satellites of none” as we so proudly boasted on attaining sovereign statehood in 1966?”

The court martial began last week and is still sub judice, thus constraining any detailed comment thereon from this quarter. However, I discovered that there is indeed a statutory definition of what comprises the enemy and that in this matter the enemy is reputed to be an either alleged or well-known drug trafficker, according to newspaper reports. The statutory definition is to be found in the interpretation section of the Defence Act, Cap 159, that provides as follows-

enemy” includes

  1. (a)  persons engaged in armed operations against the Barbados Defence Force or any force co-operating therewith, and
  2. (b)  armed mutineers, armed rebels, armed rioters and pirates…”

Indeed, the Defence Act itself, I have discovered, makes for quite interesting reading, providing in section 35 for a sentence of death upon conviction by a court martial of the offence of aiding the enemy; and imprisonment for such military offences as cowardice (s. 37); what I choose to call the utterance of discouraging words (s. 38); and becoming a prisoner of war through disobedience or wilful neglect, and failure to rejoin forces (s. 39). Indeed, for its singularity, the text of section 39 (2) merits reproduction-

Any person who, being subject to military law under this Act, having been captured by the enemy, fails to take, or prevents or discourages any other person being subject to service law who has been captured by the enemy from taking, any reasonable steps available to him or that other person, as the case may be, to rejoin the Barbados Defence Force or any force co-operating therewith, is guilty of an offence.

But I digress. Today, I want to comment on the guidance provided by the Caribbean Court of Justice [CCJ] in its original jurisdiction in two recent decisions as to the entitlement to and the nature and extent of the freedom of movement of CARICOM nationals within the region

It may be recalled that in Shanique Myrie v Barbados in 2013, the CCJ had determined that there had been created on the Member States to the Treaty “a binding obligation to allow all CARICOM nationals hassle-free entry and an automatic stay of six months upon arrival into their respective territories subject only to two exceptions: the right of Member States to refuse entry to ‘undesirable persons’ and their right ‘to prevent persons from becoming a charge on public funds’.”

In the recent matter of Tamika Gilbert et al. v Barbados, it was suggested that this freedom had been infringed by Barbados when on an allegation by a Bridgetown store owner, the two claimants were taken into custody and, according to their evidence, subjected to “humiliating and degrading” strip searches by the police.

The Court, which possesses exclusive jurisdiction over the interpretation of the constituent Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas [RTOC], held that freedom of movement under the RTOC does not immunize CARICOM nationals from the operation of law enforcement agencies in the receiving State and, in the absence of any claim that they had been discriminated against by virtue of their nationality in that they were subjected to treatment that is worse or less favourable than is accorded to a person similarly situated, (except for the fact that he or she is of a different nationality), they could not establish an infringement of their Treaty right of freedom of movement. As I have commented elsewhere, though it may be argued by some that some discrimination on the basis of nationality might have emanated from the store-owner(would a local have been similarly accused?), the discrimination needs to be effected on the part of the state or its official agencies and not merely by its nationals.

And last week, in Bain v Trinidad & Tobago, the CCJ had cause to opine on what constitutes sufficient proof of entitlement to the treaty rights of a Caribbean national. Here, Mr Bain, an alleged Grenadian national, claimed that he was denied his freedom of movement under the Revised Treaty by the Trinidad & Tobago authorities when the immigration officials refused him entry and sent him back to Grenada on an early flight.

As evidence of his citizenship, Mr. Bain had produced his Grenadian driver’s licence, which stated that he was a Grenadian citizen. He also showed his Grenadian voter’s identification card that stated that he was born in Grenada. In addition, his USA passport also listed Grenada as his country of birth. These documents, Mr. Bain argued, should be enough to invoke his right of freedom of movement, as explained by the CCJ in Shanique Myrie v Barbados.

In its judgment, the Court determined that, while there was no doubt that Mr. Bain is a Grenadian citizen, he did not present sufficient documentation to prove it to the immigration officers. The presentation of the Grenadian driver’s licence and voter’s identification card was not sufficient. Unlike the Grenadian passport, neither document was meant to serve as evidence of citizenship. In addition, they were neither machine- readable nor designed to be stamped by immigration officials.

The Court also rejected the argument that the notation in Mr Bain’s US passport that he was born in Grenada, conclusively proved citizenship. It was noted that it was possible that Mr. Bain could have renounced his citizenship, or have it stripped away by the Grenadian government, while mere birth in a country does not always automatically evidence citizenship.

It is difficult to fault the judgment of the Court in this case. There is no disputing the fact that the best evidence of CARICOM nationality and thus entitlement to the Treaty freedom of movement regionally is that the applicant is the holder of either (i)  a passport and who was born in the state issuing the passport or in another qualifying Caribbean Community state; or (ii)  some other form of identification issued by the state of his birth or by another qualifying Caribbean Community state of which he is a national, as expressed in the local legislation pertaining to the movement of skilled nationals.

In addition, the CCJ heard submissions from the Caribbean Community that the “appropriate travel document to invoke the right of freedom of movement is the CARICOM passport or a passport issued by a CARICOM Member State”. My only quibble is with the Court’s raising of the “possible” as opposed to “probable” events that could have occurred to cost him his Grenadian citizenship and while I agree that mere birth in a country does not always automatically evidence citizenship, there was no allegation that this was not the case in Grenada.

Yet, one is compelled by force of reasoning to agree with the judgment that “the function of an immigration officer is to be a gate-keeper, taking only a short time to open the gate to those who clearly qualify to be admitted, and not to be a private detective involved, at the expense of himself or his employer, in investigations of law and fact to determine whether or not there is some reason that can or cannot be found to help the potential entrant justify being admitted through the gate, and that it is up to the entrant, who is in the best position to resolve matters, to help himself.

 

Altruistic China?

The following article is reproduced from the Canadian press at the request of Money Brain. Is China as altruistic as some would have us believe?

Across the globe, especially in the great motherland Africa, there are horror stories being recorded about this new marauding. What insights are there to be learned by impoverished states of the Caribbean? Besides fueling our greed for ‘things’ what other factors determine regional foreign policy with China?

-David, blogmaster


When it comes to defending Canada from the menace posed by the People’s Republic of China, it is now a matter of public record, and should be a matter of some embarrassment to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, if not shame, that the course his government embarked upon almost four years ago was dangerously naive, if not recklessly thoughtless.

It’s a tragedy that it took the Chinese Ministry of State Security’s kidnapping of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and cultural entrepreneur Michael Spavor to prove that the Beijing regime was not the “win-win, golden decade” friend and trade partner Trudeau had incessantly harped about. Robert Schellenberg, dubiously convicted on drug-smuggling charges in the first place, had his 15-year jail sentence upgraded to a cell on death row. Canada’s canola exporters are stuck with $2.7 billion in export contracts that Beijing has ripped up. Threats of further punishment hang in the air.

It’s all because Canada detained Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou last December on a U.S. Justice Department extradition warrant. Meng is sought by the U.S. to face charges of fraud and dodging sanctions on Iran. Beijing needed to throw somebody up against a wall and slap him around, so President Xi Jinping chose Justin Trudeau.

Beijing’s complex campaigns of subversion, threats, influence-buying, bullying and espionage in Canada stretch back much farther than last December, of course. So does the sleazy tendency of Canadian politicians to look the other way, or rush to Beijing’s defence whenever anyone in the intelligence community publicly notices the obvious, or throw the director of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service under the bus for pointing it out.

Beijing needed to throw somebody up against a wall and slap him around, so President Xi Jinping chose Justin Trudeau.

When CSIS director Richard Fadden had the temerity to point out nearly a decade ago that there were provincial cabinet ministers and other elected officials in Canada who had fallen under Beijing’s general influence, several Liberal and NDP MPs demanded his resignation.

hen-CSIS director Richard Fadden testifying at the House Public Safety committee in 2010. ANDRE FORGET / QMI

So it was refreshing to see that Tuesday’s first-ever annual report from the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) made no bones about it. China is a threat to Canada’s national security, the committee found.

Terrorism, espionage and foreign influence, cyber threats, major organized crime and weapons of mass destruction were all listed in the NSICOP report among the top threats to Canada. China figures in the report’s findings under espionage and foreign influence, and under cyber threats as well.

Russia is right up there, too, and although the report is redacted in several places, other unnamed governments were reported to be busy with the same dirty work. But it was the novelty of China being singled out for once, in a high-level federal government intelligence report, that’s worth noticing. Usually, Ottawa lets China get away with anything.

“China is known globally for its efforts to influence Chinese communities and the politics of other countries. The Chinese government has a number of official organizations that try to influence Chinese communities and politicians to adopt pro-China positions, most prominently the United Front Work Department,” the report states, referring directly to Fadden’s whistleblowing in 2010.

The report also notes a 2017 warning from David Mulroney, a former ambassador to China, about Beijing’s influence-peddling efforts in Canada. To get what it wants, Beijing mobilizes student groups, diaspora groups, “and people who have an economic stake in China, to work behind the scenes.” The report also notes the unsavoury business of lavish political donations on offer from Chinese businessmen with close links to China’s Communist Party leadership.

China is known globally for its efforts to influence Chinese communities and the politics of other countries

Report by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians

Two years ago, the Financial Times obtained the United Front Work Department’s training manual, which boasts about the electoral successes of 10 pro-Beijing politicians in Ontario. “We should aim to work with those individuals and groups that are at a relatively high level, operate within the mainstream of society and have prospects for advancement,” the manual states.

t was all smiles back then: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China on Dec. 5, 2017. SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The reason for the public’s relative inattention to influence-and-espionage threats posed by such foreign powers as China and Russia is that the federal government tends to avoid addressing the issue publicly. “As it stands now, an interested Canadian would have to search a number of government websites to understand the most significant threats to Canada,” the committee found.

“For some threats, such as terrorism, information is readily available and regularly updated . … For other threats, such as organized crime or interference in Canadian politics, information is often limited, scattered among different sources or incomplete. The committee believes that Canadians would be equally well served if more information about threats were readily available.”

That information is available, of course. It just hasn’t been coming from the federal government. In his just-published book, Claws of the Panda: Beijing’s Campaign of Influence and Intimidation in Canada, veteran foreign-affairs reporter Jonathan Manthorpe painstakingly enumerates the breadth and scope of the United Front Work Department’s organizations in Canada, and Beijing’s intimate links throughout Canada’s business class. Manthorpe relied solely on the public record, showing that Beijing’s strong-arming, its inducements and its subtle and not-so-subtle intimidation have been carried out in plain sight for years.

Last year, a coalition of diaspora groups led by Amnesty International provided CSIS with an exhaustive account of Beijing’s intensive campaign of bullying, threats and harassment targeting Canadian diaspora organizations devoted to Chinese democracy, the Falun Gong spiritual movement, Tibetan sovereignty, and the Uighurs. A Muslim ethnic minority in Xinjiang, the Uighur people are currently being subjected to an overwhelming tyranny of concentration camps, religious persecution, “re-education,” family separation and round-the-clock, pervasive surveillance. “Canada has become a battleground on which the Chinese Communist Party seeks to terrorize, humiliate and neuter its opponents,” says Manthorpe.

Canada has become a battleground on which the Chinese Communist Party seeks to terrorize, humiliate and neuter its opponents

Authur Jonathan Manthorpe

That kind of subversion usually occurs behind the scenes. But for years, Confucius Institutes have operated openly in dozens of Canadian universities, colleges and high schools. “In most cases,” Manthorpe contends, “they are espionage outstations for Chinese embassies and consulates through which they control Chinese students, gather information on perceived enemies and intimidate dissidents.”

Because its mandate covers more than a dozen institutions and agencies, NSICOP — first proposed 15 years ago, but only now getting off the ground — had a lot of ground to cover. More than half of the report’s 121 pages are devoted to a review of the intelligence functions of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. But it’s subversion by foreign governments that seems to have caught the Parliamentary committee’s attention — CSIS told NSICOP the foreign-influence threat is becoming more acute, and countering it will call for “a more significant response” in the coming years.

With that in mind, the committee is already working on a followup review of the mandate, priority and resources Ottawa provides Canada’s intelligence community to monitor and counter the foreign-influence threat. The committee’s report is expected to be released before the October federal election, but it won’t be focused on the foreign cyber threats Ottawa is already preparing to monitor and expose during the election campaign.

“We’re going to outline the primary-threat actors, we’re going to be examining the threat those actors pose to our institutions and, to a certain extent, our ethno-cultural communities,” NSICOP chair David McGuinty told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday. “We’re working feverishly to get it done.”

About time, too.

Terry Glavin is an author and journalist

 

The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – A Borderless Region

“You are not to wrong or oppress an alien, because you were aliens in the land of Egypt. –Exodus 22:21 (ISV)

There appears to be an irrefutable presumption in the collective mind of governing administrations in Barbados that a substantial majority of our citizens are firmly in favour of the ongoing regional project in all its iterations. Hence, there is no need to consult the populace on any measure proposed by that project to which the State might be inclined to accede.

However, if I am to judge from certain views expressed in various quarters over the years, I am not so sure that this presumption might not be seriously flawed. Of course, our Constitution does not mandate the holding of a referendum in order to ascertain the public sentiment with regard to these or, indeed, any treaty matters. These are solely within the executive prerogative so officialdom is nonetheless entitled to base its international relations on this presumption without fear of legal recrimination.

We saw the application of this presumption with regard to our accession to the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice and we are now witnessing it anew with the recent enactment of legislation, the Caribbean Community (Amendment) Act 2019, intended to give municipal effect to our regional obligations under the Protocol on Contingent Rights to which the Honourable Prime Minister affixed her signature on Barbados’s behalf on July 6 2018 in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

To my mind, the presumption is founded on the popular anecdotal expression that for the people of the region, true integration is a daily-lived experience ever frustrated by the actions of the political leaders who care not one whit for any cession of their sovereignty in their several bailiwicks. The first part of this opinion was echoed by the Right Excellent Errol Barrow, sometime Prime Minister of Barbados in his speech at the 1986 CARICOM Heads of Government Conference where he declaimed, “If we have sometimes failed to comprehend the essence of the regional integration movement, the truth is that thousands of ordinary Caribbean people do, in fact, live that reality every day. In Barbados, our families are no longer exclusively Barbadian by island origin. We have Barbadian children of Jamaican mothers, Barbadian children of Antiguan and St. Lucian fathers. We are a family of islands.”

As Mr Barrow appeared to be, I, too, am a committed regionalist. Yet, it may be argued and is submitted that the reality of which he spoke is experienced by only a few in the region, and that there are numerous CARICOM nationals that have had or will have no contact with the other states in the region or their inhabitants. For these people locally, Barbados is their oyster, the self proclaimed “gem of the Caribbean” whose imagined pristine environment of low crime, harmonious race relations, and general law and order would only be sullied by an invasion of foreigners from other regional jurisdictions.

His Right Excellency would have been referring to those of us who, whether by marriage, romantic relationship, occupation, trade or otherwise are compelled to be Caribbean men and women. But there are also significant numbers who, as a caller to David Ellis last week, have never even visited a neighbouring island and whose experience of other CARICOM nationals is either based on generalized hearsay (“the violent Jamaican”, “the smart-man Guyanese”, “the poor small- islander”, or “the party-minded Trinidadian”) or on some random adverse encounter with one such person. And then there are the unrepentant xenophobes or latter-day “nationalists” who will brook no strangers at all within their gates.

As for the legislation itself, I have perused a copy of this from the Barbados Parliament website –Bills before the Senate- <https://www.barbadosparliament.com/site> (last accessed March 9 2019). My first comment is the rather esoteric one of dissatisfaction with its form. The language of treaties is ordinarily less rigorously crafted than that of public statutes, thereby permitting the ratifying jurisdiction to fashion its complying law in accordance with its perceived national interest while still respecting the intendment of the international obligation. However, on this occasion, the state has taken the “easy “ way out by simply appending the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas [RTC] and the relevant Protocols thereto as Schedules to the body of the Act that does not itself make any substantive provision. It has been done elsewhere before, it must be conceded, and I am unaware at the time of writing of any revision to the electronic document.

The Protocol on Contingent Rights, the Third Schedule to the Act, is the only one reproduced on the electronic copy referred to above and it repays reading. What is immediately striking is that certain jurisdictions are not signatories to the original document so that if the rights and obligations under the Protocol are intended to be reciprocal, these jurisdictions are not privy to them. Indeed, I have learnt subsequently that some of these jurisdictions have asked for a deferral of their accession to the Protocol for varying reasons.

According to the Recitals to the Protocol, the States Parties to the RTC that establishes the Caribbean Community, including the CSME, declare themselves “convinced that the primary rights accorded by Member States to nationals of the Caribbean Community in respect of the CSME must be supported by other enforceable rights operating to render them exercisable and effective. Interestingly, while they acknowledge the differential institutional and resource capabilities of Member States of the Caribbean Community in ensuring the enjoyment by their nationals of internationally recognised (sic) rights” and, at the same time, “the importance of equality in the grant of Contingent Rights among the Member States”; they nevertheless are “committed to conferring the contingent rights as set out in this Protocol…” [Emphasis added]

I suspect that it is these italicized passages more than anything else that is the source of phthisic for most Barbadians opposed to the measure. After all, they reason, parties enter into agreements in order to secure mutual benefits and if the parties are not equally resourced, then the benefits (and the burdens) are likely to be disproportionate. So that while Barbados is able to provide social benefits such as taxpayer-funded bus transportation for schoolchildren, I am not aware of any regional jurisdiction that does this. It is similar with regard to undergraduate tertiary education.

By the same token though, Barbados, with its comparatively high cost of living and levels of taxation might not be that alluring to many individual wage earners, as assumed.

Essentially, the contingent rights to be afforded to the principal beneficiary – a national of a Member State exercising one or more primary rights under the RTC-; his or her spouse and their dependants as both these terms are defined in the Protocol, are detailed under Article II (a) to (f). These rights are minima only and Article IV permits a Member State to confer even more extensive rights than those in the Protocol, subject to Articles VII and VIII. In addition, there is, in Article III (a) to (g), a built-in agenda of potential rights that “shall only be recognised and applied as contingent rights at such time and upon such terms and conditions as the Conference may determine”.

To be continued…

A Nobel Peace Prize for Caricom

image

DAVID  COMISSIONG
Citizen of the Caribbean

The 30th Inter-sessional CARICOM Heads of Government Conference ended in St. Kitts last Wednesday – the 27thof February 2019 – with the staging of a Press Conference. And guess what was the very first question posed to the head table comprising Prime Minister Timothy Harris, CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Roche, and Jamaican Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith by the assembled Press Corps ?

Well, if you guessed that it was a question about the deadly military confrontation that is currently taking place between India and Pakistan in the skies above the disputed Asian region of Kashmir you would have guessed correctly! The journalist who was first off the mark wanted to know whether our CARICOM Heads of Government had discussed the dangerous breach of the peace that had occurred in Kashmir that very day, and whether CARICOM was going to issue a statement on the matter!

As you would imagine, this question caught the CARICOM trio by surprise, but I would wish to advise them – and all other CARICOM leaders and officials – to expect to have many such questions posed to them in the future.

You see, ever since our CARICOM Heads of Government not only issued their 24thof January 2019 Statement on the crisis in Venezuela (declaring that the Caribbean is a Zone of Peace and insisting that a process aimed at a peaceful settlement of the dispute must be pursued) , but also followed up the Statement by enunciating these peace-seeking principles at meetings of the United Nations Security Council and  with the UN Secretary General, people all over the world have started to associate CARICOM with a “diplomacy of Peace” and to see CARICOM as the champion of a “Zone of Peace” concept in international affairs.

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that in a contemporary era characterized by conflict, tension, egregious breaches of International Law and order, and the easy recourse to unilateral attack and military aggression, that the recent bold and courageous CARICOM championing of the principles of Peace and dialogue has made many governments, institutions and people sit up and take notice.

Indeed, since the publication of my recent article declaring that our Heads of Governments’ statements and actions in relation to the crisis in Venezuela constitute “CARICOM’s finest hour”, I have  actually received letters making the case for the conferring of a Nobel Peace Prize on CARICOM!

No doubt such a sentiment is a bit pre-mature, but if our Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is able to maintain its unity and courage and to so continue to champion the concept of a “diplomacy of dialogue” and the notion of the Caribbean being a “Zone of Peace” that it is able to facilitate a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the crisis in Venezuela, why shouldn’t such an achievement attract the highest international plaudits?

It is against this background therefore that I would like to draw to the attention of my fellow CARICOM citizens that this notion of a “Zone of Peace” is an International Law concept that Caribbean leaders – both secular and religious – have helped to develop and champion over an extensive period of time, and that it is therefore a concept and a philosophy that we Caribbean people could justly lay claim to.

So, let us embark on a brief examination of the history of the International Law concept of a “Zone of Peace”.

The roots of the term “Zone of Peace” are to be found in two 1971 international instruments that constituted efforts to extricate two regions of the world from entanglement in big power rivalries during the Cold War – the 1971 UN General Assembly Declaration decreeing the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace and the 1971 Declaration of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand declaring their intention to “keep South East Asia free from any form of interference by outside powers”.

However, the term was given a more universal applicability when in 1978, the United Nations General Assembly held a Special Session devoted to disarmament and resolved to establish “zones of peace in various regions of the world under appropriate conditions to be clearly defined and determined freely by the States concerned in the zones, taking into account the characteristics of the zone and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

And to their credit, it was the political leaders of the Caribbean who immediately took hold of this newly established general legal concept and engaged in  a process of giving it concrete and specific content and applying it directly to our Caribbean region.

In October 1979, for example, at the Ninth Regular Session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, Grenada (under the leadership of late Prime Minister Maurice Bishop) co-sponsored a Resolution that called on all states to recognize the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace “and to devote all their efforts in appropriate regional and international forums, to the advancement of this concept.”

Subsequently, the Committee of CARICOM Ministers of Foreign Affairs— at their sixth Meeting held in Grenada in June 1981– reaffirmed their intention to have the Caribbean declared a Zone of Peace and established a Working Group to formulate measures to give effect to the Zone of Peace concept.

The Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC) then got into the act, and in April 1982 they too adopted a Resolution which urged our CARICOM Heads of Government to establish a Zone of Peace in the Caribbean, “including the ratification of any treaties which may be necessary to ensure this.”

Furthermore, with the return to power of Prime Minister Errol Barrow of Barbados in 1986, the drive towards the confirmation of the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace was given a tremendous boost when, in his July 1986 speech to the opening ceremony of the CARICOM Heads of Government conference in Guyana, the Barbadian national hero stated as follows:-

“My position remains clear that the Caribbean must be recognized and respected as a Zone of Peace…I have said, and I repeat that while I am Prime Minister of Barbados our territory will not be used to intimidate any of our neighbours: be that neighbour Cuba or the USA. And I do not believe that size is necessarily the only criterion for determining these matters. It is important to let people know where you stand…in what is a moral commitment to peace in our region.”

And finally in the year 2014 our CARICOM member states joined together with other sister states of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to issue the “Havana Declaration” definitively declaring our region a “Zone of Peace” in which the core principles of self-determination, non-intervention in the internal affairs of states, and a commitment to resolve disputes peacefully through dialogue and negotiation would be rigorously upheld , and in which a “Culture of Peace” would be assiduously cultivated.

To the credit of the current cohort of CARICOM Heads of Government, it is precisely these core “Zone of Peace” principles that they have advocated in their Statements on the Venezuela crisis and in the “Montevideo Mechanism” that they have proffered as a procedure for negotiating a peaceful and lawful end to the crisis.

Stay the course CARICOM ! A grateful World will ultimately commend you for preserving the very foundations of the system of International Law, and for championing the indispensable value of Peace.

Lead, CARICOM, Lead!

 

The following article submitted by Ambassador to CARICOM David Comisiong

If one compares the work effort of Ambassador Comissiong to his predecessors Denis Kelman and Bobby Morris one must give Comissiong higher markes – David, Blogmaster
Read Ambassador Comissiong artcile which was published elsewhere.

Lead, CARICOM, Lead!