To hear some of our politicians talk, the greatest danger to the welfare of the citizens of any of our Commonwealth Caribbean nations comes from citizens of other former British possessions in our region.
Listening to it all, one would never believe that at one time, most of our fiercely independent Commonwealth Caribbean nations ever formed part of a single Federation. Alas … once such was the case, and for a few brief years, a single flag fluttered over our Caribbean islands – a flag our former British overlords fondly hoped would unite us all under a shared dream of a single Caribbean nation.
Perhaps the flaw in the vision lay in the truth that the idea of the West Indies Federation did not spring from the heart and mind of the people of our scattered and insular territories. The concept (not the first of its kind) was actually an alien imposition, urged by the British upon an obedient people. In the years following World War II the colonial power, grievously weakened by the immense sacrifices of two successive world conflicts, sought to shed the burden of an empire it could no longer afford. Aware that the tiny island territories would never be able to make it on their own, Britain attempted to bind them together with the larger entities in the hope of creating a viable and lasting economic and political unit.
Endemic insularity, jealousy, fear, pride and selfishness rapidly took their toll – and the hopeful Federation soon collapsed into a shambles from which we are still trying to cobble together some form of viable economic and political cooperation. As harsh realities forced themselves upon the Caribbean consciousness, insularity lost its appeal – and reluctantly the independent territories began to forge a homegrown version of the old Federal dream. Our singular lack of success in that effort is demonstrated in the trials of the West Indies Cricket Team, the air wars that pit Trinidad & Tobago against the rest of the region, the failure of the OECS to properly support the sub-regional airline LIAT, and most recently by the ugly affair involving Shanique Myrie and prideful, isolationist Barbados.
Attitudes to the movement of Commonwealth Caribbean peoples between our territories are a sad testimony to the insularity that continues to plague our development as a region. Today, veritable tidal waves of humanity surge out of Jamaica (the irony!) and struggling Guyana. To add to it all, descendants of the laborers who left our impoverished islands to cut cane in the Dominican Republic are fleeing their own poverty-stricken land to make their way in the lands of their fathers.
Opportunistic politicians have found a soft target in the immigration issue. It is so simplistic to blame immigrants for “taking away the jobs” of locals as an easy vote getter. Pragmatic leaders must champion the right of Caribbean peoples to forge a strong regional economy by seizing the opportunities available in our family of nations. The time to make the Caribbean dream a reality is now, and visionary leaders like Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas of the Federation of St Kitts & Nevis are leading the charge. The days of insular denial are over, for the good of our united peoples.
Colin Sampson is host of “Good Morning St. Kitts Nevis” aired Monday thru Friday, 730am-9am on Freedom Radio, 106.5FM