It’s not Caricom, it’s Carry go bring Come!

Ironically, before there was the Caribbean Community (Caricom), there
was free movement of persons during the colonial era. But once we
became independent, governments — intoxicated with the illusion of
sovereignty — immediately instituted work permits and visas.
Now, Caricom is an advanced state of fragmentation, riven by centrifugal
forces born of economic implosion and petty nationalism. Absent is the
salutary influence of farsighted political leadership. The ultimate root
cause is the lack of any genuine sense of community.
Fleeting moments of community existed when the West Indies cricket team
was world champions, the University of the West Indies (UWI) clinged
tenuously to regionalism, and there were glimpses when we lose ourselves
in the revelry of playing Mas around the Savannah in Port of Spain.
Our leaders meet twice a year to recite the Beatitudes of Caricom unity
and chant the mantra of common purpose. But the people feel no
connection to goals and few of us fully understand the platitudes of
integration or the working of Caricom.
Haiti, Belize and Suriname know they are only included in Caricom in a
formal sense. The Bahamas only wants formal membership in the Community
but not in the CSME. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)
is moving ahead with its own sub-regional integration, convinced that
the so-called Big Four — Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and
Tobago — mean them no good.
Guyana longs for the days of preferential arrangements for sugar and
Trinidad longs to be free of its mendicant neighbours. Jamaica blames
the implosion of the manufacturing sector on imports from Trinidad.
Belize becomes more a part of Central America each day and integration
with Florida is a preferred option for The Bahamas.
Barbadians worry about the invasion by Guyanese, Trinidadians feel there
is a swarm of Grenadians. Everybody fears the potential tidal wave of
Haitians. And there is a region-wide apprehension about the
violence-prone Jamaicans.
Nowhere is the lack of community spirit more evident than in the
treatment meted out to Caribbean people as they try to move around the
region. The immigration officials are among the most destructive
elements undermining the goodwill for integration.
These often uncouth, abusive self-appointed guardians of national
xenophobia perpetuate daily atrocities which generate hostility. They
are not chastised for their offences because there is tacit support for
their actions.
Admittedly, Jamaicans have a track record of violence, drug trafficking
and illegal migration attracting visa requirements from which nearly all
other countries are exempt. All Jamaicans are suffering because of the
reputation and behaviour of the “bad” Jamaicans.
How can anyone forget the furor of intemperate statements and appalling
lack of diplomacy spawned by the complaint by Jamaican Ms Shanique Myrie
that she was finger-raped in a cavity search by a female immigration
officer before being thrown out of Barbados last year? There are
numerous examples in every country but incidents involving Jamaicans are
particularly high.
The last thing we would want to see is all our countries resorting to a
tit-for-tat behaviour. Because then it would no longer be Caricom but a
‘Carry go bring Come’ community.
We must move urgently to restore our sense of a Caribbean community sharing a common heritage.
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