Following the very public collapse of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member unity at last month’s Organisation of American States (OAS) summit in Mexico, the bloc’s disharmony was further exposed at the heads of government meeting in Grenada.
Pleas for “collective action” by the newly elected Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Dr Hubert Minnis, and closer unity urged by the outgoing Chairman, David Granger, president of Guyana, appear to have fallen on deaf ears when it came to the incoming CARICOM Chairman, Dr Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada and host of the meeting.
Speaking during the ceremonial opening of the 38th summit of CARICOM leaders last week Tuesday night, Dr. Mitchell criticised the political influence on the operations of regional airline LIAT, which is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“I have long held the belief that political presence on the board of airlines, such as LIAT, is not helpful to its proper management and efficiency,” he said.
“How could LIAT thrive when, for example, a few months ago, literally overnight, LIAT cancelled one of its most lucrative routes to and from Grenada, without any consultation with the citizens or leadership of Grenada? And it was all based on politics. Colleagues, we have to do better as a region,” he continued.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, publicly disagreed with Mitchell on the problems facing LIAT and appealed to regional governments to invest in the airline.
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, also took issue with Mitchell over remarks in relation to the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).
In a strongly worded statement, although not naming Mitchell, Browne referred to him as “a particular head who is of the flawed opinion that with my support and other heads that he could achieve his compulsive, obsessive desire to dissolve the board.”
In late 2015, an independent review panel of the CARICOM Sub-Committee on Cricket Governance recommended that the WICB be disbanded and an interim committee installed to run the affairs of cricket in the region.
Browne and Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, have publicly disagreed with this recommendation.
In the face of the latest internecine conflicts on purely regional issues, the Bahamian Prime
Minister called on CARICOM leaders to “speak to the world with one voice about the aspirations of our people, and the mission of CARICOM.”
“CARICOM is a community of the people we serve, not a club of officials and politicians,” Minnis said.
Guyana’s president also underscored the critical need for unwavering solidarity at this time.
In the message to his colleagues, Granger stated: “The Caribbean Community cannot cling to an obsolete model of insularity in light of these international changes. The Community might be an association of small states but it is larger and stronger when it is united. It must not underestimate the value of its solidarity or its strength when it speaks with a single voice as a Community. Solidarity is a source of strength.”