Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Were OECS voices heard at the CARICOM heads of government summit in Jamaica?

By Ian Francis

It is approximately eight months since the summit of CARICOM heads was held in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Since then, Jamaica’s Bruce Golding has passed the torch to a struggling Tillman Thomas of Grenada, who might soon have to face a revolt of his National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Since assuming the chairmanship, Thomas has showed some interest in the organization and it will be interesting to watch how he handles the appointment of the new Secretary General for the Secretariat; appointment of a new Chief Justice for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and of course his own personal challenge of taking Grenada into the CCJ. These are interesting times and the region is watching closely.

The 56th Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) meeting recently held in Grenada seemed to have had great success. The only grumbling is that Antigua’s Baldwin spent too much time gazing in the skies hoping that the breakfast invitation from Barack and Michelle would arrive after a long pigeon journey from Washington to Mt Obama and then to the Botanical Gardens in Grenada. The pigeon arrived empty handed and a disappointed Baldwin lost interest in the Assembly.

With the growing popular uprisings in the Middle East, North Africa and Iran’s misguided decision to send naval ships through the waters of the Suez Canal, one can only assume that Washington is so engaged and concerned with these fast evolving events that the White House invitation will not arrive in the immediate future.

As Prime Minister Denzil Douglas of St Kitts and Nevis has stated, the leaders at the CARICOM inter sessional meeting that ended in Grenada recently needed to address their time in a process of careful analysis, deep discussions and the development of a strategic plan to guide the organization in future years. As Douglas lamented, he was hopeful that at the inter sessional meeting CARICOM leaders would channel their energy on the many issues facing the region.

While not dismissing Antigua’s concern about the popular uprising in Libya, the Republic of Haiti’s pending return by former president Aristide, who was kidnapped and forced into exile in South Africa, must be addressed by the region’s leaders. The despicable and vulgar action by the United States of America, which resulted in the abandonment of Aristide in a notorious and corrupt nation known as the Central African Republic, should have been strongly criticized by the CARICOM leadership.

Unfortunately, they went into mute mode and, like roosters, it took courage and principled leadership by former Jamaican prime minister; P.J.
Patterson to rescue Aristide from the corrupt African nation until South Africa was able to complete all logistical arrangements to welcome their new guest. PJ, Randy Robinson, Congresswoman Maxine Walters and others must be commended for rescuing Aristide from the Central African Republic.

The CARICOM leadership has no other alternative but to support Aristide’s pending return to his native Haiti. This is not the time to echo or repeat the voice of the United States State Department media frontline man P.J Crowley as to whether Aristide’s return will be helpful. Was Duvalier’s recent return to Haiti helpful? PJ Crawley should also give us a one liner about the State Department’s position on this notorious and repressive dictator whom the United States supported for many years. Aristide’s welcome must be hailed by our leaders to his native birth land and should even go further to ensure that the region becomes part of his security detail. This is the time to show the courage and leadership that Douglas called for and there should be no retreat. Aristide requires the region’s full support.

Since the rigged and shameless elections in Haiti. There are four frequent questions being asked about CARICOM’s Mission in Haiti. These are: (1) what is the specific role and purpose of the CARICOM Mission in Haiti? (2) What specific and concrete outcomes have been achieved by its presence and what specifically has the Georgetown Secretariat benefitted by virtue of their presence in Haiti? (3) Who is funding the CARICOM Mission in Haiti? (4) When will the Mission come to an end? What is the reporting mechanism? Who reports to whom and how are CARICOM governments engaged in this Mission? These questions need to be answered.

As the CARICOM inter sessional assembly became a reality in Grenada last weekend, there are still cries from OECS leaders expressing their concerns about uncontrollable crime and lawlessness in their jurisdiction.

At the Jamaica summit, Skerrit of Dominica and Spencer of Antigua suggested that Jamaica might be in a position to assist, given the nation’s experience with gangs and garrison control. Unfortunately, the suggestion fell on deaf ears. Many of the OECS have since retreated to their old colonial tactics of recruiting foreign sideline retired police officers to manage national security initiatives. The OECS region requires the active assistance and intervention of the More Developed Countries on crime and lawlessness in their jurisdiction.

In conclusion, drug interdiction and the presence of foreign fleets in our waters are important security measures; however, leaders need to identify other mechanisms that will rebuild capacities in our police forces and other security agencies. With a credible vision on crime, our leaders are also urged not to shy away from examining other key and important strategic security issues which include:

-- The role and function of IMPACS. Can this organization seriously contribute to the containment of crime and lawlessness in the CARICOM region or is it just another CARICOM regional organ that has found favour from foreign multilateral friends?

-- What can the Barbados based CEDERA contribute to crime containment and other national security issues? What direct and specific impact will the recent CARICOM agreement generate on crime and lawlessness in the region?

-- What is the current status of the Regional Security Service? Should this organization be re-examined or purged so thus resulting in a new and progressive organizational model that reflects global reality?

-- Can Jamaica assist in the restructuring of the Regional Security Service? How about Jamaica giving a secondment to the region by one of its capable national security team? Someone like Novelette Grant or Glenmore Hinds?

Crime and lawlessness need to be seriously tackled in the region.

Ian Francis resides in Toronto and writes frequently on Caribbean Commonwealth Affairs .He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada. He can be reached at

March 2, 2011