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Respect citizens’ rights, engage foreign states, reject insularity – President Granger

Georgetown: Delivering his remarks as outgoing Chairman of the Heads of Government Conference, President Brig David Granger, expressed his gratitude to the host country and joined his colleagues in welcoming the newly elected leaders.

He noted that the determinants which brought all of them together, will advance their interests at four pillars. This, he noted, were integration, human and social development, foreign policy coordination and without these, “the community could collapse if these pillars are shaken.”

The Guyanese Head of State said emphatically that, “the regional community finds itself in an international situation today that is replete with uncertainty and complexity”. He describes these as follows:

•             US policy, as a result of changes in its administration, is uncertain.

•             UK policy, owing to its resolve to exit the European Union, is uncertain.

•             EU policy, after the expiration of the Cotonou Accord, is uncertain.

•             AU policy, within the African, Caribbean and Pacific

group, will be driven by the continent’s collective interests, different from CARICOM’s, and is uncertain.

As a result of these, he opined that it is imperative that CARICOM engages foreign states to preserve its interest, hence it, “must ready itself for negotiations with the UK, EU and the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States. The emergence of these groups of states will play a prominent role in international relations in the twenty-first century, just as the seaborne empires dominated the nineteenth century and the rise of independent states characterised the twentieth century.”

President Granger sounded a warning that CARICOM, “cannot cling to an obsolete model of insularity in light of these international changes. The mirage of fifteen airlines, fifteen cricket teams, defence forces and fifteen embassies in the capitals of the world might mesmerise a few sentimental romantics but could deplete the treasuries of our states.”

Citizens are at the centre of this Community, the Guyanese President reminded, “The original Treaty of Chaguaramas iterates the determination of our founding fathers to: “…strengthen the bonds among the people of the Caribbean [and] to fulfil our people’s aspiration to “…full employment and improved standards of work and living…..We respect every citizen’s fundamental human rights, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person.’ The perverse notion of a ‘stateless’ person, he added, is anathema to the Community’s concept of human dignity.” The Community must never cease condemning inhuman treatment meted out to Caribbean citizens in the Dominican Republic or anywhere else.”La semaine dernière, nous étions des Haitiens… aujourd’hui, nous sommes des Haitiens… la semaine prochaine, nous serons des Haitiens.” Which translates as, “Last week we are Haitians, today we are Haitians and tomorrow we will still be Haitians”, hence issue of statelessness must be

The Community though comprising small states, President Granger explained, 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. Foreign policy coordination is the sharp instrument, the cutting edge, of our diplomacy, to gain our great advantage. We should not damage it.”

He then called for the adaptation of a, ‘Green Agenda’ which can help to protect the Community from the threat of environmental hazards and natural disasters. He also lauded the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, a forest conservation initiative, launched at the 24th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta in 2015.

He further reiterated his call for the Caribbean, to remain a ‘zone of peace’, “Security cooperation, under the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACs) and through international agreements such as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), have helped to keep our citizens safe. They are necessary but not sufficient. Security cooperation, seemingly so successful a decade ago during international cricket in 2007, must remain a priority in this age of international terror in 2017.”

The need for a Roadmap for a single ICT Space, approved at the 28th Inter-sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community held in Georgetown in February 2017, President Granger indicated “will help us to straddle the 3,200 km2 of sea space, which separates Nassau in the north from Paramaribo in the south, through information and communications technology. We must advance that roadmap.”

He then described the CSME as the CARICOM’s best response to changes in traditional European markets, growing economic liberalization and the emergence of additional economic blocs, “The CSME is still the best vehicle to allow small states to compete in the global economy while promoting economic and social development. The CSME is the most ambitious project attempted by the Community; it must not become its most ambiguous.”