HOPEFULLY, we should officially learn today of decisions taken at yesterday’s meeting of the Bureau of the Conference of Caricom Heads of Government in Port of Spain to advance policies and programmes of the region’s economic integration movement ahead of the first inter-sessional meeting expected to be hosted in February next year in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The bureau functions as a management committee between regular and special meetings of Caricom Heads of Government with the intention of ensuring that decisions unanimously taken are indeed vigorously pursued with required guidance of the Georgetown-based Caricom Secretariat.
Having hosted and chaired last July’s regular annual summit of the 15-member Community, it was not surprising that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was host and chairperson for yesterday’s meeting of the Bureau. Barbados Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, and Vincentian Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, were also present. Dr Gonsalves is the incoming host and chairman for the February 2014 inter-sessional meeting.
While it would have been the norm for crime and security, as well as the lingering negative impact of the global economic crisis to be addressed, the bureau could at least come forward with announcement of a few new initiatives.
For instance, one such initiative could be the getting off the ground of the long-mooted idea of establishing a Caribbean Business Council (CBC) for which entrepreneurs from across the Community and officials of the once-functioning Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC) were lobbying regional leaders.
Given the increasing high profile being sustained by the region’s private sector, and particularly the investment and trade initiatives originating with key players in Trinidad and Tobago, there is no good reason why the bureau, as the Community’s management committee between ministerial and leaders’ meetings, should not devote some attention to making the CBC a reality.
Such a regional agency, with clearly defined mandates on public sector/private sector cooperation, could well be an incentive also for the currently dormant Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL). The CCL needs to fight off its apparent snooze sessions and become active in fostering structured dialogues, at least twice annually, between Caricom Heads of Government and lead representatives of the region’s business sector and labour movement.
Let me, however, make a different kind of observation about Caricom, before focusing on two other unrelated issues.
I had recently argued that our region’s public silence on a threatened US-led military offensive against Syria was not an option for those who believe in peaceful development. Although somewhat late in coming, Caricom did issue a statement which was a unanimous declaration by the Community’s foreign ministers and which had the full approval of all Heads of Government.
Subsequently, in a separate statement on the Fourth Meeting of Caricom and Cuban Foreign Ministers, it was pointed out how common positions would be adopted at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly on matters of hemispheric unity, peace and socio-economic development with a reaffirmation to work for ending of America’s trade, financial and economic embargo against Cuba.
Finally, I must note the death of a journalist colleague.
As this column was being written, officers of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service were probing the circumstances surrounding the death of the respected and well-known Guyana-born journalist with T&T citizenship, Ulric Mentus. He passed away in his apartment at Chase Village where he lived alone. He was 87.
“Ric”, as he was familiarly known, had worked over many years in various positions with newspapers in Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as serving in information and public relations capacities within the public and private sectors.
In the late 1970s Ulric felt compelled to return to Trinidad and Tobago from Guyana amid growing political hostility toward him and other journalists—(including this columnist)—by the then government of the now late Forbes Burnham. In Guyana his “Ric Mentus Column” was widely read in the then Sunday Graphic of which he was editor.
The local media fraternity as well as the Guyana Consulate in Port of Spain would also be interested in learning more of the circumstances surrounding his death.
He was an outstanding colleague with a passionate sense of social justice and deep commitment to press freedom. Farewell Ulric!