The theme of regional integration rang high as the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus celebrated its 50th graduation exercise.
Those given citations of honours for doctorates in their fields of work have all been contributors to Caribbean development; the valedictorian at this Barbados campus hailed from Jamaica; and an honouree, Dr Keith Hunte, reminded the graduating class that it was their task to build on integration efforts of the past.
“We cannot afford to drop the baton that has been given to us by the pioneers of integration, or stumble through irresolution or self-doubt,” Sir Keith advised a packed Garfield Sobers Gymnasium on Saturday.
A former principal and pro-vice-chancellor, Sir Keith Hunte and former politician and legal celebrity Sir Henry Forde, retired Anglican Bishop of Barbados Reverend Rufus Brome, former Barbados Central Bank Governor Dr Marion Williams and former St Lucian diplomat and West Indies Cricket Board president Dr Julian Hunte were at this golden year of UWI Cave Hill graduations all conferred with honorary doctorates for their outstanding work.
“This graduation ceremony is as good an occasion as ever to remind ourselves that though over the last 50 years significant progress has been made within the university . . . much more remains to be done,” Sir Keith said
“You have a responsibility to participate in the ongoing process of community-building at the national, as well as at the regional level,” he told the graduates
Sir Keith essayed through attempts at formal Caribbean integration reaching back to 1958 with the Caribbean Free Trade Area (CARIFTA), and the half-measures achieved since, with a high point being the Grand Anse Declaration of 1989 when regional leaders resolved to establish a Single Market and Economy.
He reflected on being a student in the Jamaica UWI Mona Campus in 1958 when a likely CARIFTA leader, Norman Manley, backed out of the leadership role owing to expected strains of integration.
“I make that point because the tension that he felt is still very much a factor of life in the Caribbean,” Sir Keith said, adding: “it is a Caribbean reality, but something about which attempts have been made over the last 50 years to change it in a positive direction”.
He quoted leading Caribbean thinker, the late Sir William Demas, who observed that Caribbean trade liberalization was not enough for integration and development, but needed other factors including harmonization of fiscal incentives, a common external tariff, the rationalization of agricultural production, regional industrial programming , and a common policy on foreign investment.
He quoted Demas as saying: “The root cause of the situation can be found in the fact that most of Caribbean Single Market and Economy commitment are premised on the existence of higher degrees of political integration than currently exists.”
Sir Keith asserted: “A commitment to work towards the realization of the single market and economy, I argue, is the continued responsibility of our generation”.
As though in reassuring response to Sir Keith’s appeal, valedictorian Stephanie Deidre Ewbank declared: “The future of the Caribbean looks no brighter than it looks here tonight.”
She advised graduates to celebrate the process towards their graduation.
“It is through examination of the process that will allow us to adopt the relentless vigour and perseverance to solve the problems and challenges that face our Caribbean societies today.”
Ewbank, a Bachelor of Laws first class graduate with honours, referred to Barbados Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson’s saying his time at Cave Hill in the 1970s had provided profound understanding of the inter-connectedness of the Caribbean. She added: “ Now five decades later this statement remains very true. It is a hallmark of the Cave Hill education, and is something that we graduates will cherish as we tackle the elusive goal of Caribbean integration.”