In this segment of my article I am going to be arguing that we Caribbean people can establish a Federation of the Caribbean; that we can do so by simply evolving and extending our already existing Treaty Of Chaguaramas; and that when we do so, we don’t necessarily have to relinquish the status of nationhood that our individual island nations currently possess, nor compromise the unique cultural identities of our various mini-states.
But let us begin by reminding ourselves why we need to establish a strong multi-territory nation-state in the Caribbean.
The harsh reality is that the small states of the caribbean cannot seriously face up to the massive threats posed by a crisis-ridden and imperialist-oriented international capitalist system with a protective mechanism that is as weak and deficient as our currently existing Caribbean Community (CARICOM). We need something of much greater strength and substance. We need something that more closely approximates a multi-territory nation-state equipped with a federal or confederal government.
And there is no reason why we should not set our sights on achieving something that “approximates” a multi- territory nation-state — a Federation or Confederation of the Caribbean –– in light of the fact that we share a common geographical space, and a common history, kinship and cultural identity.
Furthermore –– and just as importantly –– we already possess the basic structure of a regional national Constitution in the form of the Revised Treaty Of Chaguaramas. All we need to do now is to consciously evolve and further develop the Revised Treaty Of Chaguaramas, and to commit ourselves to seriously implementing the product of such an exercise in constitutional development.
But let me hasten to add that the “constitutional product” that we are aiming for is one that will stop short of being the type of traditional unitary or federal state that would require the wiping out of individual island statehood and sovereignty. Having the strength of a Federation or Confederation of the Caribbean does not necessarily mean that we have to dismantle the status of “statehood” or “nationhood” that our Caribbean mini-nations currently possess.
There is no reason why we cannot advance to a Federation or Confederation while at the same time maintaining the de jure “nation” status of Barbados, Jamaica, St Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago, and the other member states of CARICOM. There is no reason why these states cannot continue to possess such political institutions as a government, a state parliament and law courts. And there is also no reason why the establishment of a Federation or Confederation of the Caribbean should prevent Barbados, Jamaica, Dominica and the others from continuing to preserve and develop their unique cultural identities.
Of course, one of the compelling reasons for wanting to maintain the “nation” status of our CARICOM member states is centred on the power and clout in international organizations that come with such status.
At present, our CARICOM states possess 14 votes at the United Nations, at the Organization of American States, and in several other international organizations. This is a source of strength that it would do us well to maintain.
Basically, what I am saying is that the Further Revised Treaty Of Chaguaramas that I am proposing must aim at a regional constitutional structure that is designed to preserve our existing strengths and to eradicate our weaknesses.
We must set about to create a Federation or Confederation in which equal state partners voluntarily associate in order to perform specific tasks collectively, and to bestow upon themselves an international persona that will deliver a certain level of regard and respect in the international arena. But we must go about creating these supra-national regional structures that are so essential to fostering the unimpeded growth of our regional economy and to securing for us other social and political benefits, without, at the same time, negatively impinging on the unique cultural identities of our various mini-states.
The currently existing weaknesses or needs that we must tackle through the creation of a regional multi-territory Federation or Confederation are as follows:
(1) The need to facilitate and energize economic development based on the establishment of regional industries and on the mobilization and creative combining of the resources of the various territories.
Comissiong Goliathby David
(2) The need to end the wasteful duplication of political and administrative activity and structures in our sub-region, and to better organize and synchronise such structures.
(3) The need to give institutional and political expression to the deeply rooted sense of Caribbean nationhood felt by the people of the CARICOM territories.
(4) The need to develop a foreign policy and a collective platform for dealing with the outside world, that is strong, meaningful and coherent, and that is effectively articulated.
(5) The need to deliver to the people of our CARICOM territories a common and elevated level of human and civil rights, living standards and life opportunities.
(6) The need to give to the people of our CARICOM territories a sizeable area of living-space in which they would be free to roam and explore, in search of life
opportunities and individual or family destinies.
(7) The need to bestow upon the people of our sub- region a collective nation-type structure that is large enough, strong enough and self-reliant enough to elicit appropriate respect and regard from the nations of the international community.
Our next step therefore is to consider how the Caribbean patriots and statesmen of this era can modify and further evolve the Revised Treaty Of Chaguaramas in order to produce a constitutionally undergirded regional institutional structure –– a Federation or Confederation –– that is capable of helping us to grapple with and satisfy these critical needs.
The Caribbean statesmen and patriots of the 1960s and 1970s –– Errol Barrow, Forbes Burnham, Eric Williams, Michael Manley, Vere Bird –– took us as far as the currently existing Treaty Of Chaguaramas. Let us not
reject or downplay their handiwork, but rather, let us see how we can further evolve and develop their (and our) Treaty Of Chaguaramas, in order to give us our much needed and desired end-product –– a Federation or Confederation of the Caribbean.
The next segment of this article will roll out a detailed proposal for the organic modification and development of the Revised Treaty Of Chaguaramas.
(David Comissiong, attorney-at-law, is the president of the Clement Payne Movement.)