Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What’s Behind Trinidad’s Sudden Initiative To Unify The Eastern Caribbean

We can safely assume that the urgency and suddenness of the recent Trinidad and Tobago movement towards a political union involving St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada didn’t come about because of any epiphany on the truths of regional integration. Up until last week when they initialed an agreement for political and economic union with the above mentioned states Trinidad was largely still of the mindset that killed the last federation nearly fifty years ago declaring "1 from 10 = 0," namely that the smaller islands of the eastern Caribbean were Mendicants - not the sort company for an oil-rich state like Trinidad & Tobago. We know that from the way they treated Barbados over the fishing/maritime boundary dispute. To this day they have not concluded a fishing agreement with Barbados its so-called Caricom and potential CSME partner even though the matter was dragged before international courts. Clearly, Trinidad does not see Barbados nor any of the islands of the eastern Caribbean as equals, and consequently do not deserve that respect.

It is doubtful too that it has anything to do with the PetroCaribe agreements these smaller nations have signed with Venezuela, and/or Trinidad with moving to protect its traditional oil markets. The fact of the matter is that Trinidad for decades has been getting out of the oil business simply because it just does not have the oil reserves to be a significant player in the market anymore, and certainly not enough to compete with Venezuela on that score. Besides, with Caricom and CSME the region already had the mechanisms in place to protect Trinidad’s dominant role in the region in oil. It was these mechanisms that former Prime Minister of Barbados Owen Arthur appealed to when his government refused to join the PetroCaribe initiative.

So, what could it be that is driving Trinidad into union with mini-states it does not like? In a word - demographics. Nothing happens in Trinidad outside of the prism of its race-based politics. It is sad but it is true. After several recent elections some of which were lost to the Indo-based parties, and some narrowly won, including the most recent, because the Indo-based parties were split, the traditionally Afro-based party - the PNM - has finally come to the conclusion that the only way to maintain its dominance in the future is to get more people of African descent in the polling booths. And, the only way to do that in a country that has a sizeable and growing Indo-Trinidadian majority already is to tap into the votes of the neighboring Afro-centric islands. There is no mystery to this initiative - Patrick Manning woke up one day, took a look at the Guyana situation, and did the Maths; if you add the ¾ million blacks in the eastern Caribbean (including Barbados) to the ½ million already in Trinidad & Tobago, there is no way Indians would ever rule Trinidad & Tobago again.

Admittedly, this is a very cynical scenario, but look at the man at the helm - a man who is now being described as a “dictator” in his own country by some of the people who were closest to him for decades in and out of government. But, of course, all the blame is not Patrick Manning’s, you have also the sorry situation of small states in the eastern Caribbean that are basically on the take, you give - they take. How else can you describe a socialist firebrand of the ‘70s and ‘80s like Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonzales maintaining relations with Taiwan at the expense of the Peoples Republic of China in this day and age? And, it gets worse all up and down the island chain. They are all on the take and Patrick Manning is exploiting it in this cynical maneuver that will destroy Caricom and the regional integration movement for the next fifty years. To it’s credit, the new Barbados government has decided to sit on the sidelines and watch, at least for now. They must not have forgotten how Trinidad’s last elected dictator, Eric Williams, unceremoniously kicked one of its national heroes, Grantley Adams, out of Chagaramas and Port of Spain when his perceived usefulness to them was over.

1 comment:

  1. "The new Trinidad and Tobago government has confirmed that it will not go ahead with the proposed economic and political unification with countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

    The plan was promoted by the previous administration led by Patrick Manning.

    Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, who took office last month, said Mr Manning made a unilateral decision.

    She said the proposal had not been taken to parliament, nor had a national consensus been sought.

    In its manifesto for May's general election, Mrs Persad Bissesar's People's Partnership coalition had pledged to reverse the move toward a union with the OECS, calling it divisive."