“One foot in. One foot out.”
Visiting Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Gladstone Christie said the Bahamas is often viewed by the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom) and Caribbean nationals as having dual affinities to both the United States and the wider region.
Amid the dichotomy “of paying dues to Caricom and not fully participating”, Christie also said The Bahamas was part of the Caribbean, has worked with the region and will continue to work with the region.
He advocated “functional co-operation” as the catalyst for strengthening ties with regional neighbours.
He made these comments while delivering the feature address on “The Role of the Bahamas in Caricom: My Perspective On Where We Are Going”. The occasion was the Distinguished Open Lecture Caricom Leaders Lecture Series at the Daaga Auditorium, The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine campus, on Monday.
Among those present were Prof Terence Seemungal, chair Open Lectures; Dr E Monica Davis, Honorary Consul for The Bahamas; Prof Clement Sankat; Prof W Andy Knight, director Institute of International Relations (IIR); Richard Saunders, campus registrar; Dr Heather Cateau, head of the Department of History; and a group of Bahamain students who are studying here.
Before delivering an indepth lecture (autism, climate change, agriculture and tourism) in eloquent style, Christie, 70, fondly known as the “Dean of the Caribbean”, gave a brief geographical description of Bahamas’ location.
He said The Bahamas was located about “50 miles off the coast of Miami, 28 nautical miles from Palm Beach (Florida) and encompassed a civilisation that touched at least 26 islands”.
He also said, “From the moment the airplane takes off in Miami, it is in the Bahamian airspace.”
Bahamas is a favourite destination for tourists and boasts a buoyant economy.
Without mincing words, Christie said: “There is no model in the Caribbean for The Bahamas. Really, when one looks at the hemisphere, there is little, very little, to see in a model there for us.
“There is an incredible requirement to duplicate infrastructure, island by island, and so when one prime minister of a Caribbean country speaks about an airport, the PM (Christie) has to speak about 21 harbours and airports.”
But Christie was quick to “re-establish, reaffirm, buttress and support the position of The Bahamas that we are an integral part of the region”.
He said: “It is my firm view when we work together, the region is stronger. When we pool our national identities and sovereignties and work in concert with each other, it is better.”
On the flip side, Christie said: “We (Bahamians) have placed the emphasis on functional co-operation.”
He spoke of the late Sir Lyden Oscar Pindling, fondly regarded as the “Father of the Nation”, and his efforts at integration. He was the political leader of the Progressive Liberal Party, from 1965 to 1997, when he resigned from public life.
Chrisitie said Pindling had signed the official instruments to make The Bahamas a part of Caricom on July 4, 1983. Under his watch, the Grand Anse Declaration, which was signed in July 1989, in Grenada, further committed Bahamas to Caricom.
Reminiscing on the words of Pindling, Christie said: “Caricom is the principal institution of Caribbean integration and co-operation, and it is responsible for the consolidation and strengthening of the bonds which have existed among Caricom people. It represents the common determination of the government of Caricom countries to fulfil the hopes and aspirations.
Caricom is the medium through which the consigned government expects to obtain most rapidly the optimum human and natural resources, particularly through the exercise of permanent sovereign-
ty by the efficient and common resources, and functional co-operation in the social, technological and educational fields, and by a common front, in relation to the external world.”
Christie added: “Although The Bahamas will be joining the committee, it will not have membership in the Caricom market, which is a separate organ of the committee established.
“There are a number of institutions associated with the Caricom community which The Bahamas has associated and The University of the West Indies and the Consul of Legal Education, Caribbean Development Bank and the Faculty of Hotel Management Training.”
Christie also said in 1983, long before The Bahamas became a member of Caricom, it was functioning as part of the unique group of nations and territories.