by Baba Elombe Mottley
In recent times, a number of events varying from immigration incidents to reflective analyses have generated heated and bitter responses from Caribbean people on both sides of the Caribbean Basin.
Many of these comments emanated not only from people who were considered victims but from people whose background and education one would have expected to be more reasoned and informed.
Many commentators in Jamaica have demanded the abolition of the integration process because in their opinions the people in the Eastern Caribbean don’t like Jamaicans.
The debate has been bitter and personal and pregnant with ignorance, not of our own individual making but because of the nature of our current relationships. Politicians in the Eastern Caribbean and politicians in the Western Caribbean seem to believe that the sun rises and sets on them personally and political office has transformed them into fountains of wisdom.
For example it does not matter if for one reason or another, a Jamaican dancehall artist is prevented from performing in the Eastern Caribbean. The result is that somebody don’t like them. But the fact that 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the music played on the 100 plus radio stations in the Eastern Caribbean is Jamaican music is ignored or unknown by the critics. Or that the biggest reggae festival outside of Jamaica in the Caribbean is Reggae on the Hill in Barbados. Or that for a number of consecutive weekends reggae festivals were held in Barbados, all with different Jamaican artists. That is what I call ignorance — not knowing.
When dancehall music is banned on minibuses in Trinidad, Guyana, Barbados or St. Lucia to control the lawless behaviour of the young, it is considered an act of treason and ignored when it is done in Jamaica. Or when rioting breaks out in Tivoli, or a hurricane hits or an earthquake rumbles, I get phone calls from all over wanting know if I am okay. They have no concept of size. Some of these islands can fit into a Jamaican parish in pairs. They too have a high level of ignorance.
When a “pretty woman” claims sexual assault by government employees outside of Jamaica, the howls of protest cause the full moon to shine at noon. When it happens to “pretty women” in Jamaica, the whimpering is inaudible in a graveyard at midnight.
So what else are we on both sides of the Caribbean ignorant of? I would answer that by saying each other. Many of the issues that surface in Jamaica can be found in some form or fashion in every territory in the Caribbean.
The extent of family relationships within the Caribbean started after emancipation is monumental. The early years of university education which brought many Caribbean young people together which led to marriage. But the growth of regional university campuses in Trinidad, Guyana and Barbados and now St. Lucia has constricted those relationships over the last few decades. The same result was compounded by the growth of Community Colleges which keep more and more people at home.
However, the region was well on its way politically 50 years ago when Jamaicans opted to withdraw from the Federation after being told that Jamaica would be invaded by hordes of starving people from the Eastern Caribbean. Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr Eric Williams said, one from 10 leaves zero, and the whole thing collapsed and led to the pursuant of all towards their own independence.
But the process of integration did not stop. What the politicians decided in their wisdom did not stop the integration process. It is that process that continues every day by the people themselves yet outside the collective consciousness of the region.
Technocrats across the region have put in place an administrative structure that has dealt with every objection that was conceived to delay the implementation of the integration system. And although we know that prime ministers don’t commit political suicide, they continue to give themselves responsibilities that if they act on them, they would have to do it as a form of hari kari, a ritual and honourable suicide that puts Caribbean people first. They prove day by day that they cannot and will not rise to that level.
It is imperative that these responsibilities be handed over to commissioners who would be paid to implement what is required and to absorb the licks and cuffs that may come from the public and naysayers.
Mr. Editor, I want you to bear with me and provide the space for the following information to be fully displayed. I am going to list several regional organisations that have continued the integration process so that those persons who feel that we should go it alone should understand what we will have to dismantle.
Click on photo below to see full list.
If we take the population within CARICOM to be about 5,000,000 people excluding Haiti and Suriname, I am willing to bet that lest than 5,000 people are aware of the above information including members of all the media houses across the region. That is less than 0.001 per cent.
This list also not delineate the full extent of private ownership across the region in real estate, services, insurance, trading, publishing, entertainment and manufacturing.
At the bottom of the lists you just clicked to read is a selection of Caribbean magazines that are selling the Caribbean lifestyle across the region and internationally.
Do you know what I can’t understand? All the organisations, businesses and magazines listed here involve thousands of Caribbean people who depend on the region for their living. Why are they silent? Ignorance!
What is my prescription? I want us to have the opportunity of learning more about each other to help dispel the level of ignorance that obtains.
How? At present we have access to television stations from the US, Canada, UK, France, German, Spain, Latin America, the Middle East, India and China and we cannot see a station in Trinidad, Barbados or countries of the OECS.
Each Caribbean government must make it mandatory for all Caribbean stations to be carried on cable networks in each territory. Give us the option! Why should TVJ and CVM and all the other stations not have access to the market of 5,000,000 people across the Caribbean?
Why shouldn’t advertisers have the opportunity of reaching that same market for their products? Why can’t we see what our neighbours watch and do?
Yuh mean that the rest of the world is more important than us?
I rest my case.