There came a turn in the allegedly tentative inching-along toward the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), and away from the Privy Council. It showed in Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar's mincing two-step dance, forward to Caricom, and then back. As the Prime Minister left for the heads' meeting in Castries last week, best-informed regional watcher Rickey Singh reported a "lobbying initiative" by her and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to gain support for a Caricom treaty amendment, blessing the T&T choice of "a two-phase approach".
As if it were an export product within the common market, T&T's agony of indecision over embracing or releasing the Privy Council, was thus to be shared with regional partners. No sign appeared, however, of regional market testing for that product.
The Persad-Bissessar expedient of keeping one foot in the Privy Council and another in the CCJ projects as another "Trini" way of doing things. From a safe distance, Caribbean neighbours might indulgently enjoy the lovable eccentricity of the "Southie" style, without necessarily taking it too seriously.
It's not like the natural gas of which T&T is the regional source, and which everyone in Caricom can be assumed to want or need in one form or other. You can hear Anand Ramlogan pleading the other special case: "This is our way to go; it's not all that bad. Come, work with us."
Somehow, inside Caricom, the governments, and the populations, are content to settle for any kind, or even no kind, of information on regional affairs. That's how to interpret the lack of diplomatic listening posts in various regional countries.
The 2006 post-election inauguration in Georgetown of President Bharrat Jagdeo was in this regard a learnable occasion. Ambassadors, some in national regalia, turned up from obscure, far-flung eastern European countries. The T&T representation was entirely unofficial. It consisted of then Opposition MP Ganga Singh and, on an entirely unconnected mission, a single T&T journalist.
Neither of us had been tasked to report for digestion and assimilation at Knowsley, then seat of Foreign Affairs in Port of Spain, any update on Guyana's public affairs. Such regional periscoping as went on at Knowsley derived no benefit of freshest intelligence.
Life goes on like that. A T&T demarche was advocating retention of the Privy Council for final criminal appeals, and designation of the CCJ for the last word in all other appeals. Only Rickey Singh was available to warn, in time for the Castries meeting, that the T&T proposal "would have to compete for time at plenary and other caucus sessions on other vital matters".
It competed, and it lost. In a virtual shrug before the media at Piarco, Mrs Persad-Bissessar reported mission unaccomplished. The T&T product was not selling in Caricom. It's now T&T's turn to go it alone. Fifty years after Jamaica's own-way resolve led to the closure of the only Caribbean show in town, T&T is challenged to make its way unaided and unapplauded.
For a lady who typically seeks to leave gold coins in her rhetorical trail, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar may, in her August 31 anniversary address, have little to report for advancement in her own name of the Independence project. Not while the Privy Council, set up in 1833 to hear appeals from the "plantations and colonies", continues to represent T&T's last desperate clinging to the judicial skirt tails of the old Mother Country.
The Prime Minister sought to sober expectations. What hadn't happened in 50 years, he suggested, should not be expected to happen now, just so: "Whilst we had the Privy Council from day one, I cannot see that within a matter of weeks or months that something can be changed overnight."
Jamaica, meanwhile, the Federation hold-out from 1961, appears today concerned to keep up progressive appearances. At least in the person of Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, Jamaica has newly pledged solidarity with the regional project and with its institutional expression in Caricom.
Unlike half a century ago, this PNP government has proclaimed assumption of leadership from in front, way in front of the anti-Caricom tendencies of the JLP Opposition.
In far more stentorian tones, another prominent Jamaican voice rose to invoke an anti-colonialism that was pervasive in radical attitudes of generations past.
Justice Patrick Jones, head of the International Criminal Court, in a June 19 London address, since virally circulated, drew on the insights of Frantz Fanon and CLR James into the psychological damage wrought on its victims by slavery, indenture and colonialism. "Colonisation," he said, "has left ingrained in the psyche of Jamaicans the feeling that they are not good enough, that what they look like is not good enough and that what is foreign, especially if it is white, English, European or American is better."
He was referring to Jamaicans stubbornly holding out for continued constitutional allegiance to the British Crown and an unending embrace of the Privy Council. In the 1970s, still scared by the connotations of "republic", T&T made its way, with relatively little trauma, past the monarchy.
Facing the final hurdle of the Privy Council, this republic is now summoned by history to take the damn leap, having found little to learn from Jamaica, or the rest of Caricom.