CARICOM to invite new members

By Cathy Lashley

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (BGIS) — Efforts are under way to encourage other nations in the region to join the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and, thereby, strengthen it.

Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart
Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart

This was disclosed by Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, when he met with the media as the curtain came down on the 34th regular meeting of the conference of heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Port of Spain.

Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart
Asked about a call by prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar that countries such as the Dominican Republic, French states and some of the Dutch islands should join the Community, Stuart noted that this plea was an attempt to broaden CARICOM as widely as possible.

He said: “I always reflect on the speeches of Forbes Burnham and Michael Manley on the 4th July 1973, when they both focused on the road language differences have played in the Balkanisation, in the separation of this region, and it was a healthy development when Suriname of Dutch ancestry… joined the movement. More heartening still when Haiti, of French ancestry, joined as well and, therefore, we just want the momentum in that area to quicken.”

“… We met with the leader of the Dominican Republic; he addressed our caucus yesterday (Friday). And recommitted himself and recommitted the Dominican Republic to joining the movement at such time that it would be convenient for all the perceivable imperatives to be satisfied. So, that is … an agenda item that continues to engage CARICOM heads, and yes, i agree with the prime minister that the larger the bloc becomes, the more powerful the bloc becomes and the more diversified the areas for joint action and for integration.”

Regarding the present state of the regional integration movement, Stuart admitted that there were a number of differences among member states, but said that this was quite normal.

“Sometimes, we’re going to have little flare ups in the regional integration movement. But I think that what unites the people of the Caribbean is far more important than what divides the people of the Caribbean. We have a common history of struggle; a history of slavery and indenture and of racism, of course. We understand these things, we understand difference and we’ve over the years been able to manage difference.

“Now the differences that usual occur are differences among leaders and governments. But when differences between leaders and governments are happening, the lived experience of the average man and woman in CARICOM continues — they don’t stop living regional integration… and that is what will ensure that the regional integration movement survives,” he noted.

Among the items on this year’s agenda were: reparations for native genocide and slavery; external trade issues; the status update on human resource development, health and HIV/AIDS; border issues between Belize and Guatemala and between Guyana and Venezuela; next month’s CARIFESTA XI the progress on the region’s preparations for the United States Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA); the 40th anniversary of the independence of The Bahamas; and a date for next year’s CARICOM inter-sessional meeting.

CARICOM is commemorating the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, under the theme: “40 Years of integration: Celebration and Renewal.”

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