HIS EXCELLENCY ANTHONY THOMAS AQUINAS CARMONA O.R.T.T., S.C.
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
UWI STAT, Cave Hill Chapter, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados – The Annual President’s/Prime Minister Lecture under the theme “Youth and Caribbean Identity: Redefining Caribbean Pride for the 21st Century Youth”
20 April 2017
The esteemed George Lamming, Barbadian novelist and an important figure in Caribbean literature, said:
“Globalisation, the buzzword of the age, started in the Caribbean. Its population is drawn from every branch of the human family. The Americas, in terms of its indigenous people; Africa; Europe; and Asia, with respect to our Indian, Chinese and Indonesian populations. We have produced a new kind of global family in this region over the course of the past five centuries through the process of conquest, slavery and colonialism. That has given us a particular kind of sensibility. You throw a West Indian or Caribbean person into any social situation (in Europe, America, or Africa for instance) and he or she will operate as if they have always inhabited the place. There is no sense of estrangement.”
Our sensibility to the outside world is keen; adaptable; contagious. As West Indians, we are exotic, hard-working and compliant in the lands of cold; yet in these lands of sun, sand and sea in the Caribbean, we are yet to attain our true sense of Caribbean integration and identity. Lamming laments, “The architecture of our future is not only unfinished; the scaffolding has hardly gone up.”
I am honoured to be here today, as part of this drive for ‘Caribbean pride’, among the best and the brightest of our Caribbean lands, because we recognize that we have a house to build.
The battle to establish a meaningful regional identity and purpose in an increasingly globalised world- now much more a ‘global village’ than a world- is unrelenting, yet it remains a war that can be won by recognising that as young people, that crucible of transformation for Caribbean integration still rests firmly in your hands. Yes, the pressure is on.
It is a matter of pride for me, as a past ‘UWI boy’, to take note of the way in which UWI STAT is prepared to lead the charge, by giving service, exercising leadership and supporting the best interest and traditions of this fine institution called the University of the West Indies. UWI STAT, this historically evasive aim of ‘Caribbean integration’, which we all claw towards; dream of; hope for; is not an unattainable feat. UWI STAT plays a pivotal role in this journey for our “Caribbean-ness” through your acts and advocacy of volunteerism, responsible regional citizenship and the promotion of Caribbean pride, culture and values.
But my fellow alumni, what is this Caribbean pride; this “Caribbean-ness”, which we crave and indeed, deprave? Sir Shridath Ramphal said, of the incontrovertible truth- that the West Indies must be West Indian:
“At this moment, (the) smaller, narrower, insular impulse is dominant. We are turning inward just at the moment when the external environment of crisis demands responses driven by the spirit of community.
If we allow these negative instincts to prevail; we will lose altogether the reality of ‘community’ which is within our grasp; and endanger the Caribbean personality which should be its underpinning. They must not prevail.”
Today, I feel the need to engage in frank dialogue on the historical and personal environment that we, as West Indians, are operating within, in real terms. What I speak of is not peculiar to the citizens of the Caribbean Region. Europe is, at present, experiencing its own dilemma. The colonial recipe of assimilation and conversion when dealing with difference is no longer tenable in a multi-centred world. Postmodern Europe has emerged ashen-faced in the midst of its present migration crisis, very much like our ancestors from the Bight of Benin and the berths of Kolkata who, from overcrowded barracoons and blighted ports of call, crossed the Middle Passage to become plantation labourers in a New World.
The INTERNATIONALISATION of the Caribbean man and woman would make us equal partners on the world stage in the area of social, economic and political transformation. However, before we assume our rightful place, the Caribbean region has to engage in its own drastic DOMESTIC change in economics, politics and the human development. We simply need to get our acts together. We must return to a place of order- and if I may sound parochial in my entreaty- to a place of production and tolerance, steeped in discipline.
Caribbean integration and unity suffer from various imponderables- our very geographic size; our literacy rates; limited resources; our ever present vulnerability to international monetary policies, steeped in that skewed GDP logic; ambivalent global markets and that continuing malaise of our non-competitiveness, often argued to be the result of poor work ethic and agitated trade unions, living in the 70s and 80s. In passing, to those looking on with coloured lenses, I should mention that the defense of human rights is not cyclical, but always.
We often speak of decisions made and policies invoked at CARICOM regional meetings that are not given the light of day to begin the process of operationalisation for those policies and decisions. To quote Guyana’s Dr. Mark Kirton, we appear to have some kind of “implementation deficit” in getting right the job of purposeful integration.
Sir Shridath Ramphal spoke of this implementation deficit, when he said, “Not only are we not going forward in fulfillment of professed goals, like the Caricom Single Market, we are actually retreating from both the spirit and letter of community agreements like those that bear on the movement of Caribbean people.”
Our esteemed poet par excellence and Nobel Laureate, Derek Walcott, feared our sense of purpose and a lack of seriousness, often dictated by others and their selfish needs. He stated quite glibly, “A culture based on joy is bound to be shallow. Sadly, to sell itself, the Caribbean encourages the delights of mindlessness, of brilliant vacuity, as a place to flee not only winter but that seriousness that comes only out of culture with four seasons. So how can there be a people there in the true sense of the word?”
Walcott is talking about us in 1992. Has there been a change in how we see ourselves, how others see us and how we define our space? Even then, he warned us about our skewed governance and he portends a cataclysmic resolution to this intrinsic fragmentation of the Caribbean identity. He states, “Everyday on some islands, rootless tress in suits are signing favourable tax breaks with entrepreneurs poisoning the sea almond and the spice laurel of the mountains to their roots. A morning could come in which Governments might ask what happened not merely to the forests and the bays but to a whole people.”
25 years have gone by, a generation passed and are we any closer to creating the required mould from those fragmented people and if we are not, what are we doing about it? Have we become a different people? Or a different region? Can we, or have we, validly challenged Derek Walcott’s assessment of us and by extension, have we put a lie by our existence, by our governance structures, our regional aspiration and vision? Have we put a lie to VS Naipaul’s definition of us as “mimic men”? Young people, that crucible of restoration is in your hands and it can find cumulative credence in the internationalisation of the Caribbean man and woman. But first, we must find ourselves.
Finding ourselves, ladies and gentlemen, in the context of our regional identity, demands much more than an individual, philosophical notion of “self”. Its means, as Caribbean people, that we ourselves must be accountable and we must hold our leaders just as accountable.
There is a growing concern of “cult politics” in our region that stifles our growth. It is no longer as President Kennedy stated, “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” but rather, “what you can do for your political party and what your political party can do for you.” Yes, this is ‘where we reach’. We suffer from this selfish agenda of cult politics, which has become the order of our Caribbean day. National goals and needs become secondary- yes, even subservient, to political goals. This type of insular culture must not have any place in progressive democracies. Cult Politics blurs people’s sense of right and wrong. In the face of what is sometimes patently wrong or dubious, it encourages an unholy alliance with silence. Societies are losing faith in their cognoscenti, who are about themselves and not about what can benefit the nation, or the region as a whole.
Alas, it appears we are burdened by old men with old ideas. But if these old ideas are not working, we need to change it. What does this all have to do with you? EVERYTHING, UWI STAT, everything. You are the leaders of tomorrow, who will have to unburden the heavy shoulders of our Caribbean politics- it is a paralysis that will not heal itself, unless we breathe fresh life into old lifestyles.
As our future leaders, you must engage in a new politics for this Region. Define our politics by a more inclusive culture of genuine participation, with the appropriate competencies. We must stop this constant pantomime that takes place when an election is won and an election is lost. As victor, the custom is to immediately trigger the power of replacement and termination. Over the years, I have noticed, throughout the Caribbean, that people on Boards and in management positions are generally replaced, without referencing the need for continuity and institutional memory. And there is, as it were, a starting anew, with every won election and for years, political parties do not leave the starting blocks of governance. This kind of politics is regressive. This philosophy that ‘I must put my people there’ must end. You must both keep and put people who are competent, skilled, visionary and independent, with unassailable integrity. If all of these skill-sets are determined by one’s political allegiance or alliance, then “crapaud smoke he pipe” in this beloved Caribbean of ours.
And yet, I live in eternal hope that change is possible- indeed necessary. As Caribbean people, we have had much success and hope and yes, dismay- from three traditional sectors that have ensured that the fiber of unity in the Caribbean is not laid bare. I refer to culture, sports and education. Regrettably, there is a diminishing of this through the vagaries of globalisation and a mindset that somebody else can do it better. For many years and only last night, I came across true soldiers of the integration movement, that rank and fire- the veritable ‘small man’, our waiter in a restaurant, a bellhop in a hotel and a vendor in the pavement- expressing their angst, with such earnestness, that we in the Caribbean are not together as we should be. Somehow, we feel that our search and desire for our Caribbean-ness will lead to a dismantling of our island state sovereignty or persona.
The artist in the Caribbean continues to show us the so called intelligentsia, the way forward and by the artist I mean the painter, the poet, the writer, the Calypsonian, the Reggae and soca singer and the Playwright, who reside under that umbrella of a genuine Caribbean unity.
Our culture vultures in the Caribbean have taken on globalization in a way the cognoscenti have not, in the form of Calypsonian extraordinaire, the Black Stalin. That message of Caribbean unity and the strengths that come with it, reverberate and resonate today, by its very relevance and aims. Call it a human intention. It has been said time and time again that the song “Caribbean Man” has done more for Caribbean integration than any Government in the Region, because it constantly feeds the soul of the Caribbean man and Caribbean woman, with sustainable hope of one region, one people, one destiny.
“One race (de Caribbean man)
From de same place (de Caribbean man)
Dat make de same trip (de Caribbean man)
On de same ship (de Caribbean man)
So we must push one common intention
Is for a better life in de region
For we woman, and we children
Dat must be de ambition of de Caribbean man
De Caribbean man, de Caribbean man”
As purveyors of social justice within individual countries and in the context of the broader region and the wider world, I recall that haunting chant line of Calypsonian Gabby who sang, “Who Killed Pele” – a song that was able to seize the moment and capture the political intrigue, the stony silence, an alleged cover-up of the death of 29 year old Victor Pele Paris on the 17 May 1978. Up to now, in this hall, I still hear the haunting refrain of Gabby “Who Killed Pele, Nobody Won’t Say.” I was informed that this triggered a cold case unit in Barbados and we cannot forget that haunting Reggae song, “Green Bay Killing a Murder, Bwoy oh lord”, which brought the authorities to the table of resolution and reconciliation to do what was required.
Who can forget “Government Boots“ by Gabby, a rally cry to the entire Caribbean that the Executive must not be allowed to trample on the rights of those whom it should serve. “Stay up Zimbabwe” is another calypso, by Trinidad and Tobago’s Brother Valentino, which has massive international outreach because of that same rally cry. The fight against colonialism and Apartheid in South Rhodesia and South Africa and the struggle against British Colonisers were articulated, in the face of those who spouted human rights- one that was conveniently replaced with the right to source the gold and the diamond.
Calling them Ju Ju – Oh ya ye!
Calling them Zulu – Oh ya yo!
Showing Ashanti – Oh ya ye!
Calling Watusi – Oh ya yo!
In South Africa and Rhodesia – Oh ya ye!
Blood go run like water – Oh ya yo!
Prepare my brothers – Oh ya ye!
For the bloody River – Oh ya yo!
Just remember brothers – Oh ya ye!
Blood thicker than water – Oh ya yo!
Stay up Zimbabwe – Oh ya ye!
Stay up Zimbabwe – Oh ya yo!
This is the Calypso I know and this is the Calypso that inspired our African brothers in Angola, South African and Namibia. The Calypsonian artiste continues to be a game changer, once he and she remain independent and tell the stories that need to be told. The true Calypsonian must forever be a messenger of the people, uncompromising in that revered role. In this regard, the University of the West Indies must be commended for recognising the role of the artiste, for their exceptional worth in the Caribbean diaspora, by the awards of honorary doctorates upon them.
I am told that the Calypsonian will always be a creature of sense. Delivering the feature address for the Ceremonial Opening of the Law Term 2016/2017, Trinidad and Tobago, the Mighty Chalkdust said, ‘President Carmona once addressed calypsonians for Calypso History Month. After his address, Calypsonian Brigo asked me to explain to him the meaning of some sentences in the President’s speech. “Why do you want to know,” I asked. He retorted: “Ah didn’t understand some of the things he said, but ah know he making sense.” “How do you know he made sense?” I asked. Brigo looked at me in awe and responded: “Chalkie, he is a calypsonian; he must make sense.”
Even on that search for identity where there has been talk about Mother Africa, Mother India, Mother Lebanon, Mother Syria, Mother England, Mother Spain and Mother France, one Calypsonian with the moniker (sobriquet) “Dougla, rationalised this plight as a “dougla”, that is, the offspring of an African and Indian parent. He sang about his dilemma of marginalisation and his lack of connection to his maternal ancestry:
“If they sending Indians back to India
And Negroes back to Africa
Will somebody please just tell me
Where they sending poor me.”
The chorus line was ‘Poor you’. Inferentially, it was his way of identifying Mother Caribbean as his connective Ganges and Nile.
The internationalisation of our Caribbean culture is critical if we are to take it to the next level. Our young budding artistes must be able to collaborate, at an even more accelerated pace, with other artistes that are world-renowned, so that they can make their breakthrough into the international scene. The international reach of music with a West Indian collaboration is appreciated on the global stage, especially as it relates to dancehall and Soca music. Further collaborations between our Caribbean artistes in the Region is another avenue to foster cohesion and harmony among Caribbean people.
I turn now to a real, active and working symbol of Caribbean integration- West Indies cricket- an institution that appears to be floundering on its moorings- and I am being kind and conservative. Former West Indian cricket captain Clive Lloyd gave an insightful observation on the importance of cricket to the integration movement, “Cricket is the ethos around which West Indian society revolves. All our experiments in Caribbean integration either failed or maintained a dubious survivability; but cricket remains the instrument of Caribbean Cohesion- the remover of arid insularity and nationalistic prejudice.”
We therefore owe the sport of cricket a debt of gratitude for the mighty task it has accomplished in bringing Caribbean people together. It cannot be lost upon any of us though, that West Indies cricket is in a place it should not be. Empty stands add evidence to this spiraling disillusionment and there is a need to stop that tedious saber-rattling that goes on, when lame potshots are sent across the bow. I vividly recall, the joy and thrill the Caribbean as a region experienced in 1975 and 1979 when the West Indies won the Cricket World Cup or in 1994 and 2004 when Brian Charles Lara broke the world record for the most runs in a test match or more recently, the outpouring of love and support from all Caribbean people, when Chris Gayle became the first batsman, only days ago, to score 10,000 T20 runs.
All of us concerned and heartbroken cricket fans want the best players to represent the West Indies at all times, yet the most deserving cricketers around the region are not getting their rightful place to represent the maroon. Why has this not yet been corrected? It is appalling to hear that our very own cricketers say that they perform better when they go to other regions because they are treated better. It is disconcerting to us all when we view the imbroglio taking place between the WICB and our cricketers. We have historically not been the most exemplary when it comes to resolving conflict and dispute. I think a good dose of mediation is required.
West Indies cricket must be rescued from the conundrum that it is now in. Why must there be conflicts being trashed out on social media rather than being approached in a mediative way, where mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution techniques can be engaged. There has to be more solution-oriented dialogue on pertinent issues affecting that institution of West Indies cricket and those solutions must be enforced for the good of the Caribbean.
Sport has the power to heal and bring people together in the spirit of camaraderie. This is why when I met FIFA’s President Gianni Infantino I raised the idea, not for the first time, of having a Caribbean Colleges Football Cup where the top colleges in football in the Region can come together and compete in the spirit of genuine sportsmanship. Young men and women can culture a philosophy of healthy competition between each other regionally. The competition can be run along the lines at the Senior Caribbean Cup. To this end, this forum can be used for professional teams and leagues to select young and aspiring footballers for international scholarships and professional contracts.
We must not and cannot be limited in our vision and foresight as it relates to sport and its development in the region. In all Caribbean territories, we have constructed world-class facilities that meet international benchmark standards. In this regard, I wish to commend Sir Hilary Beckles and the University of the West Indies for their progressive thinking, by introducing this year, a Faculty of Sport to secure, in part, the legacy of the Caribbean Region.
The very defining internationalised presence that we often seek can always be found in the field of Caribbean athletics- that a Region so small has been able to produce so many exceptional world-class athletes, who have taken their rightful place on the world stage including our phenomenal mega star, the athlete of the century, Usain Bolt. And you notice I did not say Jamaica’s Usian Bolt, but our Usain Bolt, because I can attest, notwithstanding the competitive rivalries that exist among the Caribbean countries in all spheres of sport, that we can recognize the best in us. Further, when a Caribbean man or woman is the only Caribbean representative in an international sporting event, it matters not from what Caribbean country that athlete hails, we all scream, jump for joy and cry out in happiness at the Caribbean success.
With your intellectual prudence and foresight, I challenge your generation, and it is my fervent hope that in the Caribbean we can soon make another bid, to host the Commonwealth Games, as Jamaica did. It is no piped dream that with proper planning and a fully integrated Caribbean model with all the sporting facilities available, we can consider bidding for a World Cup and even the Olympic Games within the next generational cycle. This is what I envision for this proud Caribbean region.
The University of the West Indies is one of the few entities that has been a success in forging the tenets of Caribbean integration. I can attest to this because I am a proud graduate of the University of the West Indies and have witnessed, first hand, the magic it possesses for Caribbean identity and integration. I have sat in the lecture halls of all of the three main campuses of UWI- in Mona and Cave Hill as a student and at St Augustine as a Senior Tutor in the Department of Government. My sojourn at this quintessential Caribbean institution has helped to define the person I am today. I benefited from some of the finest minds in academia who lectured, guided and mentored me and I developed very lifelong friendships with brilliant and beautiful Caribbean men and women throughout the Caribbean, stretching from the Bahamas right down to Guyana. A great number of these friends of mine have made and continue to make meaningful contributions to the sustainable development of our Caribbean civilization.
It was UWI as well which helped me to hone my skills as a composer, as a musician, as a Calypsonian, when I performed under the sobriquet “Prophet of Sisyphus”, winning the Calypso King Competition at Mona, Jamaica and Cave Hill, Barbados. It helped propel my ambition to successfully sing in a Calypso tent in Trinidad during my student years at Cave Hill, going back and forth for some 10 weeks between Thursday and Monday, making no money because what I earned paid for my airfare and with what I considered to be the greatest remuneration, making it to the National Calypso Semi-Finals at Skinner’s Park, San Fernando. It is by virtue of my sense of Caribbean pride at UWI, having lived on all three campuses- in Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados- that I do recall when I was asked by the itinerant tourist of my nationality, I emphasized proudly my regional nationality by calling myself a ‘TrinJamBaj’. It always evoked laughter but I was always fervently serious about it. This fusion that formed my Caribbean identity flows through my veins; it is the reason I speak so passionately about a common Caribbean identity in our quest to adopt to globalization and to a world that will not stop still and wait for us to catch up.
But ladies and gentlemen, I have some growing concerns. The vagaries of the internalization of education structures and the creeping parochial insulation of the education system in the Caribbean, are knocking at UWI’s doors. It appears, unlike what went before, that every island in the Caribbean wants its own University, its own Engineering Faculty, its own Law Faculty and its own Faculty of Medicine. As much as it possibly results in easier access to education, it is rupturing the CARICOM spirit and the sense of ‘Caribbean-ness’ from which my generation benefitted. We therefore need to run compulsory modules in another Caribbean country if we are to maintain that sense of Caribbean-ness. Skype alone will not suffice.
There seems to be a pervasive sense of “that is ‘me own“, not ‘we own’. And where has that led us? Spiraling down the path of insularity and intolerance, instead of embracing that which really should be OURS – “we” own culture, “we” own sense of a common Caribbean identity and community. To restate, for our present discussion, what the great American psychiatrist, Harry Sullivan said “We are more human than otherwise”– “We are more Caribbean, than otherwise.” This Caribbean-ness, ladies and gentlemen, is bound up in our bellies by our commonalities, by our geography, history, culture, in sports, in our cricket. This can be our common theme if we equally believe in this concept of one Caribbean, rather than one part of the Caribbean.
It is a historical and philosophical argument that also resonates for our common jurisprudence. Why have we yet, not all, subscribed to the jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice? The arguments for a common jurisprudence have been exhausted, but are not exhaustible. Perhaps the day will finally come when we can all take pride in, and responsibility for, defining, shaping, writing and ultimately, rewriting our own jurisprudence and laws in the context of our own peculiarities and the relationships among our own Member States.
This deficit is but one of the voids in the region that mitigates against the spirit of the Caribbean integration movement, and together, you, the students and we, the Alumni can and must fix it.
Ever since the English-speaking Caribbean took its first step towards a single federated state in 1958, Caribbean thinkers, along with development experts within and outside the region, have been emphasising the benefits that would accrue to our countries if we adopt a shared/united approach to the challenges that we face intra-regionally, and in our interactions with the extended world community. There have been many failed attempts at an integrated Caribbean in the past, with just a few making successful strides in this regard. Today, Caribbean societies are confronting even greater difficulties in treating with such issues as crime and security, health issues, and, of increasing importance, the danger posed by climate change. The need to pool resources has therefore never been more urgent.
Students and lecturers, prejudice against each other has not and will not help this Region to grow, flourish and prosper in a collaborative and cohesive way. For us to be that international tour de force that I and many of my Caribbean colleagues have envisioned, there needs to be an embracing approach by all leaders. We must not be concerned about what we can get from each other but rather how we can help each other.
In the Caribbean, we have always had to rely on culture and sports to give us definition. What continues to be our burden is that general crisis in the confidence of Caribbean leadership. Today, we are witnessing developments at the global level, which have the potential to marginalize or make irrelevant, our very presence as sovereign states, if we do not culture the kind of leadership that is required to help us meet and overcomes these challenges. That is why our UWI is important. And that is why, I have tremendous faith in the path that the university has embarked upon as laid out by its esteemed Vice-Chancellor, Sir Hilary Beckles.
I have observed with admiration, the robust intellect and the vision, as well as mission, of Sir Hilary as he goes about the business of the Caribbean people. Possessed with boundless faith in the destiny of Caribbean people and the belief in the contribution that we can make towards our own development; in addition to that of the community of nations, Sir Hilary has demonstrated what the true meaning of leadership is, not waiting for something to happen. In his many writings and other actions, he has not only lamented the precipitous decline in fortune of our West Indian cricket team, an institution which was once held out to be the most successful sporting entity in the world but he did also offer solutions. He held a mirror in front of us to show how beautiful we were when we were world champions in all formats of the game, and were the envy of many.
The Cricket Development Centre, which Sir Hilary promoted, should have been the springboard to launch our renaissance in cricket. Sadly though, those who are in a position to make a difference did not seek to build on this solid example of leadership, to the chagrin of all right-thinking men and women in the region.
As a former judge, and graduate of the Law Faculty of this Cave Hill campus, I followed, with a sense of pride, the arguments proffered by Sir Hilary on the need for reparations and justice, which he made at the British House of Commons on July 16, 2014. He advanced that while enacting legislation for the emancipation of slaves, in 1833, the House of Commons did not provide the type of justice, the type of compensation, the type of reparations that should have been provided to the hapless victims of slavery. On that occasion as Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission in expressing dismay about the terms set out in the Emancipation Act of 1833, Sir Hilary told UK legislators that “the injustice and cruelty of the Emancipation Act remain today like a fish bone stuck in our throats”. He remarked further that: “My colleagues of the Commission are tasked with the preparation and presentation of the evidentiary basis for a contemporary truth: that the Government of Great Britain, and other European states that were the beneficiaries of enrichment from the enslavement of African peoples, the genocide of the indigenous communities, and the deceptive breach of contract and trust in respect of Indians and other Asians brought to the plantations under indenture, have a case to answer in respect of reparatory justice”.
I submit that this is bold and courageous leadership which the young people of the Caribbean should seek to emulate as they aim to make their contribution to foster a better life for themselves and those generations to come. It is my hope that the relevant authorities across the Region would continue to make the case for reparatory justice, which is an important component of many judicial systems worldwide.
UWISTAT must continue to adopt a proactive posture- one, which would inspire all students spread across the campus territories, the Open University centres and beyond, in order to create that social revolution, that renaissance, which Caribbean people have been yearning for. In an international environment where people, on a daily basis remain gravely concerned about the growth of insularity, racism and other forms of prejudice, coupled with protectionist barriers, which inhibit free and fair trade, despite the existence of the World Trade Organization (WTO); where borders are being closed to refugees, even in countries which have assumed legally binding obligations to accept bonafide refugees; Caribbean countries must work for closer collaboration aimed at harnessing the skills and talents of all of our people, especially the youth, whether at university or elsewhere. No one is waiting to give us anything. Indeed, we should not be waiting for anyone to give us anything.
We cannot rely solely on politicians to provide solutions to our problems as they are sometimes distracted by measures geared towards winning elections. Young intellectuals and the university at large have an important role to play in the social revolution that is needed to transform our thinking, to change some of our ways of doing things as we move forward in the 21st century. In order to do this, we must also come together.
Once you are at UWI you will become a firm believer in regional integration, and do not be discouraged by the failures at integration in the past. Such must not be used as excuses for refusing to formulate, consolidate, or deepen our rules, treaties, arrangements and other architecture to achieve the objective of the full and effective integration of our region. The late Sir Dwight Vincent Venner, KBE, also a graduate of UWI, and one of our most gifted Caribbean sons in the fields of economics and finance, has shown us that there is tremendous advantage in having a common currency, when he served for many years as Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. Perhaps, in the not too distant future, another graduate of UWI, with the requisite skills set and Caribbean pride, may be successful in showing us how the single currency model of the OECS states could be adapted as a model for the wider region.
UWI students and Alumni, innovation, invention and new bright ideas must become a personal mantra. Remember always, ridicule is often the first stage of acceptance of a great idea and the greater the idea, the more virulent the ridicule. In Copernicus’ time, the challenge was to prove the earth revolved around the sun, for Columbus to prove the world was not flat and Einstein’s challenge was of conventional laws and physics. In dealing with innovation and invention, the esteemed Lloyd Best spoke of the highly complex invention of the steel pan, derived from very humble beginnings, emphasizing that much can come from little. He said, “Pan turned literally to dustbin and emerged as the essential metaphor for transforming nothing into something, the magic of creation. It translates into making music, wherever you go with whatever you find. The ultimate capacity to invent.”
It is my fervent hope that young minds, as yours, are given the opportunity to bring to the fore fresh and innovative ideas that would assist in propelling this regional community. After all, it is to be said that our youths are the very core of our Caribbean pride. As adults and persons in authority, we therefore have a duty and responsibility to our Nation’s development and to the next generation, to be facilitators and not dictators, not shooting down great innovative ideas but creating the requisite lines of succession in every facet of life. We must be forever vigilant and not fall prey to the pangs of parochialism and insularity. I implore that our region should not emulate Brexit with all of its uncertainties as a tool to resolve our problems. What we need to do is to examine the negatives associated with that type of development and move to insulate ourselves, as far as possible, from any possible fall-out, which might impact adversely us.
Effective Leadership at all levels is critical. For example, have we tasked our diplomatic representatives to do all that is required to ensure that we receive funding from the climate finance regime under the Green Climate Fund which is an integral part of the Paris Climate Agreement? Caribbean experts showed tremendous leadership and helped to craft important provisions during the negotiation and conclusion of this landmark instrument which have been signed or ratified by countries in the region and which has already entered into force. This is necessary in order to assist local agencies with financing to address issues related to adaptation and mitigation as the Caribbean aims to reduce the effects of climate change, which is a clear and present danger to our respective territories. Bearing in mind also, the need for the region to be in the vanguard of efforts to combat the effects of climate change, I would recommend, if it has not already been put in place, that a course or module on Climate Change Law be included in the syllabus of the Faculty of Law at UWI.
Correspondingly, we must fix as a matter of urgency, the human security problems which confront our people every day, with the situation reaching alarming proportions in too many territories on a daily basis. The negative effects associated with crime, especially homicides have resulted in our region together with some territories in Latin America being listed in the top ten countries with the most murderous rates per capita in the world. This type of notoriety, this carnage; this vicious monster has retarded aspects of our development and has also caused a number of states to drop in the human development index of the United Nations. I know that governments across the region have channeled a large amount of budgetary resources in tackling criminality, which is largely fueled by the gun and drug trade, with very little positive results to show. The question which must be asked is whether the university can play a greater role in assisting states to curb this menace. And if so, what should that role be? Is it in the area of more resources being dedicated to conduct research in an attempt to determine the root causes of violent criminality in a region, which was once known for its tranquility and respect for the rule of law? Here again, UWISTAT could use its influence in extending the debate on this subject, which has far reaching effects for the peace, stability and sustainable development of our homeland.
Perhaps, it may serve well to take lessons from the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in formulating an economic policy, which recognizes and does not minimise, the equally important issue of social development and human capital. At the Opening of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago two years ago, I challenged the Parliament to incorporate these SDGs as part of its National Action Plan. I today challenge you as the movers and shakers of a new Caribbean, to examine these goals and implement them as part of your own governance models. Go further, I implore you, and focus on the objectives of goals 4, 5 and 16 of the SDGs, which speak to the mandate of women empowerment. The reality is that empowering women will lead to a more robust region in terms of finding its place, identity and cohesion. As much as progress has been made in the Caribbean, we have not gone far enough.
For far too long, women in the Caribbean have been treated as inferior and not given their just due in the home or the workplace. We do not utilize in a proactive way our individual/personal or institutional status to effect the change that is possible. Many times that status is burdened by the primitive, irrelevant, unproductive protocols of the past, the relics of a decrepit colonialism that continue to enslave our minds. This poses a hindrance to activating new protocols, which naturally come with progress and modernity. This is being recognized by several First Ladies in the Caribbean. I do not think, it can be said better than what my wife, Her Excellency, stated in Guyana at the Conference of First Ladies and Spouses of Heads of Government Meeting, where they attempted to devise solutions to social issues facing the Caribbean Region, to be considered by Governments around the Region. She stated, “As First Ladies, we must not be seen or indeed, perceived to be metaphorically, simply walking behind our husbands, remaining silent and reticent when there are challenging social issues impacting negatively on our girls, women and even our men-folk. Ours must be seen as a female empowerment agenda that is transformational and progressive.” I am inspired by the foresight and resilience of the Caribbean First ladies and Spouses of Heads of Government to collaboratively proffer implementable solutions, united against Caribbean social issues. Perhaps this approach can be engaged in a real genuine way by Heads of State and Governments around the Region.
Forty years ago, the great Robert Nesta Marley, sang lustily all around the world of his beloved Jamaica and of this Caribbean soil we call our own. He sang of world citizenship and in a prophetic way, you can add to that “Jah Never Run no Wire Fence” as another cryptic and prophetic message from him- moreso, in light of these intended “Berlin” walls, that aim to dictate international relationships and international diplomacy. As young people, you must canvass support to ensure that such walls, if built, would come with ladders.
But what of the invisible walls of intolerance and divide we build around our own Caribbean community? Perhaps, we can take those same lessons from Bob Marley, and start the process of breaking down our own Caribbean walls. In that way, ladies and gentlemen, we can start building a proper Caribbean “home”, integrated under one roof. This time around, I have confidence that more than the scaffolding of which Lamming spoke, would go up.
On 7 December 1992, Derek Walcott in his Nobel lecture identified us as “The Antilles- Fragments of Epic Memory”. This motif of Caribbean fragmentation and breakage ran deep in that lecture. He stated, “The Caribbean is still looked at illegitimate, ruthless, mongrelized, no people there. To quote Froude, ‘In the true sense of the word’ No people, fragments and echoes of real people, unoriginal and broken.” His personal storm and lyrical licence and response were relentless. In describing the City of Port-of-Spain, he touched on our Caribbean eclectic DNA. For him, that Antillean (Caribbean) experience consisted of, “A shipwreck of fragments, these echoes, these shards of a huge tribal vocabulary, these partially remembered customs, they are not decayed but strong.” He was connecting to the dynamic plurality of our society.
Two and a half decades later, I submit that we are far from decayed and still immeasurably strong. All we need is renewed vision, a sense of purpose and deliberate actions- on the part of ourselves, our youth, our leaders, our women, of institutions such as this august University of the West Indies- to effect the necessary cultural, social, philosophical and economic change required for true Caribbean integration. The Caribbean pride is there, ladies and gentlemen. It just needs unharnessing. I feel assured that our youths and our Caribbean compatriots will heed this call to arms of a united, strong and progressive West Indies.
I thank you.