How we play?
“Yo!” There’s a heavy rap on the large blue steel door. The security guard heaves it open and Chris Gayle strides in.
“We are here to play,” he says in that wooden way he often has. He is followed closely by Keiron Pollard and Sunil Narine. As the guard attempts to close the door, there is another exclamation. He pulls it ajar again. It is Dwayne Bravo and Marlon Samuels.
“We’re here too!”
In another ad, a bored-looking official is sitting at his desk in an empty immigration hall, his small radio announcing the arrival of the CPL tournament. A sudden gust ruffles the paper at his station and as he looks up, a horde of popular faces of musicians and masqueraders grin at him, proffering their passports.
These ads are one of the many intriguing and innovative aspects of this inaugural franchise tournament which has yielded so many positives that I think each aspect deserves to be examined one by one.
I doubt that it was intentional, but to me those ads were very strong commentaries about the state of tourism, travel and general movement among the islands.
The empty immigration hall invokes the struggling tourism industry. The security guard’s attempt to close the door in Dwayne Bravo’s face invokes the hostility often meted out to Caribbean travellers. The players, the musicians, the fans, the masqueraders, all having to pull out their passports for inter-island travel suggest the cumbersome aspect of movement of our people within the region.
I have to say that one of my peeves is the farcical discussions and communiqués that have been presented for decades to explain why the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), around since 1989, still cannot come into any robust and meaningful form.
The single economy was supposed to be watched over by the word “harmonisation” and the goal was integration. The late David Thompson, speaking as prime minister of Barbados in 2008, had lamented that, “As our people move throughout the region, there is legitimate concern about the access of Caricom nationals to social services in the host territory.”
In just the past few months, there have been countless complaints about the horrible service from LIAT. Passengers miss connections because of flight delays, which are rarely communicated, luggage is lost (one complaint was that a flight’s luggage was removed to make way for late cricketers’ baggage, and cricketers have missed matches too), and generally the service described is beyond poor. It is one thing to blame a shortage of resources, but there is no excuse for poor customer service. It shows such contempt for the value of our mainly inter-regional travellers.
A couple years ago, in a case that is still being examined over a Jamaican woman’s complaint about offensive handling by Barbadian customs officials, the Jamaica Observer commented on the “advanced state of fragmentation” of Caricom.
“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.”
Caricom members meet and discuss the issue of movement, of freedom to work from territory to territory and still say they have made no headway.
When the Caribbean was preparing to host the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2007, I was a member of the board for a time, and I remember that the issue of facilitating smooth, hassle-free movement between the islands was a big one regarding the expected volume of international tourism traffic. It was surprising how quickly the accommodating sunset legislation was approved and implemented. One port of entry to show your passport and then a driver’s permit would do.
Can we really say we don’t know how to make it easier for our own? I still cringe when I hear us talking about illegal immigrants from our next door neighbours. Why should we still be harbouring that kind of language?
What do we really mean when we call ourselves West Indian then?
Do we forget, here in lofty Trinidad and Tobago, that as we are blithely descending into a pit where corruption and crime reign, this country’s strength was built upon its extraordinary diversity? We must have been one of the first regions on the planet to have experienced the birthing and bonding of multiculturalism. Long before we even knew we were doing it, we were living with difference and teaching others to do it; but now we engage in fracturing discourses about small-islanders and who should be deported, and so on.
So these ads, these joyful celebrations of a Caribbean that really has become a fiction, these ads have been refreshingly sharp-witted.
The intent of course, was to promote the CPL (and more on that tournament another time), but it said many other things. This is how we play, is the line, and it teaches some marketing lessons to the tourism people, the WICB, Caricom(who knows Carifesta XI is taking place in Suriname now?).
In the ads, the officials join happily in the revelries, making one feel that everybody could end up happy if we play a different game.