Tuesday, January 23, 2018

‘ANR’s vision for the region must not wither’

Former Commonwealth secretary general national Sir Shridath Ramphal said yesterday the “Robinson Paper” or “The West Indies Beyond 1992” should not be treated as an archive but as an incentive for West Indians to prepare themselves for their futures among the community of nations. 

He said while the “Robinson Paper” had spawned the Grand Anse Declaration in 1989 in Grenada at the Caricom Heads of Government conference there was still work to be done. 

By implementing more of Robinson’s recommendations, “it  would have seen (the Caribbean) as economically stronger, more politically independent and more respected internationally.”

 Guyanese national Ramphal made the comments during his tribute at the State Ecumenical Service of the late President Arthur NR Robinson at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port of Spain, yesterday. 

Robinson died on April 9 at the St Clair Medical Centre. 

 Among those present were President Anthony Carmona, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Chief Justice Ivor Archie,  Senate president Timothy Hamel-Smith and House Speaker Wade Mark. 

They were joined by Robinson’s children David, Ann Margaret and granddaughter Anuskha and a cross section of mourners. 

During his discourse, Ramphal said he had helped with the completion of the “Robinson Paper”.

 Its underlying theme was inspiring  Robinson’s generation to the cause of regional unity.  

During that era, Robinson was the youngest of the ten  members of the Federal House of Representatives and  Ramphal was in the Federal Legal Department.  Ramphal went on to receive the honour of membership of the Order of the Caribbean Community during its first conferment in 1992.

 Stressing the need to implement the “Robinson Paper” tenets, Ramphal said: “The paper of 25 years ago— the Robinson Paper— is more than an historic archive. It is the voice of ANR speaking to us today—14 years from the 21st century—still urging us to prepare.  Those footprints on our regional sands remain imprinted on the collective West Indian mind. They will never be erased; and one day West Indians will rise up and follow them. Let this be our eulogy and epitaph.”

Ramphal added: “His colleagues listened and vowed to act; but their vows were on parchment only. In large part the vows have remained unfulfilled today, even though more than two decades have passed since their commitment.”

 He said: “I think we recognised we were of the generation that would need to carry Caribbean oneness forward. I know I was inspired by the purity of his commitment and the quality of his evocation of it. That high point of regional expectation was not to last, but ANR’s vision for his region was not to wither.”

Recounting the merits of the Grand Anse Declaration which effected change “by his intellectual leadership at Grand Anse”, Ramphal said it committed the region to the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and established the West Indian Commission. 

Ramphal revived Robinson’s views which warned “that against this background of historic change and historic appraisal, the Caribbean could be in danger of becoming a backwater, separated from the main current of human advance into the 21st century”.

He also said Robinson asserted “the period since political independence has been one of continuous awareness of the common identity which distinguishes the Caribbean people; and the structural constraints imposed upon them as small units in the international community.”

Again Ramphal reminded West Indians about Robinson’s call to “prepare for the future...consider how best to bring about real betterment in their condition of life, achieve their full potential as a free people responsible for their own destiny and to improve the region’s place in the community of nations.”

On a more intimate note, he summed up Robinson’s legacy by borrowing lines from American poet Henry  Wadsworth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life” which said: “Lives of great men all remind us/We can make our lives sublime/And, departing leave behind us/Footprints in the sands of time.”