Leading academic Professor Sir Hilary Beckles today issued a passionate appeal to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders to “free Caribbean people” and “end colonialism”, stressing that the region had to make immediate moves of its own now that Britain was on its way out of the European Union.
In an address at the opening of a symposium on the implications of last week’s Brexit vote by the United Kingdom to leave the EU, Sir Hilary said Britain had always acted “deliberately and strategically” in its own self-interest, therefore, “We have to end the colonialism in the Caribbean right now. Britain has made the move once again; we have to end the colonialism.”
The Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (UWI) proposed his own exit, recommending that all Caribbean countries dump the Privy Council as their final court of appeal and replace the monarchial system of government with republicanism.
“We have to put an end to all of this Privy Council manipulation. We need to set up Caribbean indigenous institutions; we must tell the Queen, ‘thank you very much and goodbye’. We have to go to republican status right across the Caribbean. We have to end colonialism. How much longer are we going to linger?
“They push us out, they bring you back, they push us out . . . and you are holding on. It is creating psychological dependency. Free the Caribbean people, end colonialism. End it, let us see our future as belonging to us,” he told the UWI-organized symposium at the Mona Campus in Jamaica.
The Barbadian-born academic warned that the departure of the region’s second largest trade partner from the EU grouping would rattle the region’s economic foundation and possibly lead to new challenges for the most vulnerable.
“This circumstance is going to adversely affect this fragile stability built through hard work and at the cost of the people of the Caribbean, because there is no doubt that the stability that we have achieved to create the foundations of growth has taken place at the expense of the poor. This now threatens the poor again by threatening the stability that our leaders have put in place.
“The trade agreements will have to be renegotiated, the international banking systems are already looking to re-domiciled, investments are being put on hold, all of the projections we have had for growth were predicated on a kind of stability in the world economy that would allow us to plan. We cannot now do this in the short term,” he said.
Against this backdrop, Sir Hilary urged CARICOM leaders to avoid a wait and see approach and to establish a taskforce to thoroughly examine and research all aspects of Caribbean/EU relations.
This, he said, would eliminate the need for regional leaders to take positions on an ad hoc basis, but instead make decisions based on research.
“We have to shift to a new kind of politics, a new kind of diplomacy; fact based, researched driven,” he stressed.
The UWI professor also made a case for the region to abandon its “anaemic response” to the Economic Partnership Agreements and to
adopt “an activist attitude” towards those treaties.
Sir Hilary also recommended strengthening and expanding Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM), the grouping of CARICOM states and the Dominican Republic which serves as a base for economic dialogue with the European Union, advising that it could be the doorway to new opportunities in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
He also impressed upon the region the importance of responding to Brexit with “one strong Caribbean voice”.
“Our future is not secured outside of the context of one strong Caribbean Voice,” he warned.