Remarks of the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia At The Opening of the 17th Inter-Sessional Meeting of The Conference of Heads of CARICOM
UNDER PINNING SHARED VALUES
Remarks by Outgoing Chairman
Dr. the Hon. Kenny D Anthony
Prime Minister of Saint Lucia
17th Inter-Sessional Meeting of
The Conference of Heads of Government
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
9-10 February 2006
As you may recall, we met in St Lucia in July 2005 at the commencement of my tenure as Chairman, and by virtue of the decisions which we took, we ensured that the pace of activity would continue to be a frenzied one.
After all, we would have just six months to bring about the inauguration of our flagship enterprise, the CSME. Prime Minister Owen Arthur relentlessly championed the cause of the CSME. He deserves our thanks, praise and commendations. True, he was distracted from time to time by the politics of his opposition, but he kept his focus.
In this period too, we were forced to acknowledge and to respond to a number of challenges of major significance to our Community and economies. The decisions of the EU with respect to sugar and bananas continue to dislocate lives, particularly in the rural sector. These decisions are having a devastating impact on the economies of Member States which have a direct production and trading interest in the commodities in question.
There has been much pain and disappointment, and the growing distrust and cynicism is understandable. But therein must lie the reason for strengthening our reliance on each other as a Community, and our motivation for continuing to build with even greater enthusiasm, this great enterprise called the Caribbean Community.
REFLECTIONS ON PORTFOLIO
I have had much reason to reflect on the portfolio responsibility which I hold for Justice and Governance. As you would recall, in July of last year, we engaged the Leaders of Parliamentary Opposition in a precedent-setting encounter which spoke eloquently to the maturity of our Community. Only recently, a representative committee of Heads and Leaders of Parliamentary Opposition met in Jamaica to explore modalities for continuation of the dialogue.
I remain optimistic about this initiative, and it appears to me that we would need, as a matter of priority, to commence the process of building a political architecture for our Community. We must for example, underpin the shared values in the Charter of Civil Society. The Charter requires a political culture that nourishes and supports it. The time has come for example, to adopt Community laws and principles to govern electoral practice and behavior, campaign financing, and integrity and accountability in public life.
Please do not misunderstand me. Integration is not about mindless uniformity. Integration must not strip countries of their personality, soul, and spirit. Yet it cannot survive without acceptance of common standards of behavior and practice.
Entities other than governments are already pushing the boundaries of our regionalism to their logical conclusions. Just earlier this week, a symposium for National Employers Organisations within the OECS was concerning itself with
issues such as (believe it or not) Cross Island Trade Union Representation ! After all, Trade Unions too are service providers. We as Governments must be seen as facilitators of the Community’s maturation process, and not as obstacles to it.
RETURN TO ELECTORAL DEMOCRACY
Colleagues, two days ago, the people of our sister State of Haiti showed typical bravery and courage by exercising, in the face of untold odds, the right to elect in the first instance, a president of their choice. I speak only for the
Government of St Lucia when I say that I am very happy that Haiti has, once again, embraced electoral democracy.
From all indications, the people of Haiti have shown incredible enthusiasm for the electoral process. This time the voice of the people of Haiti must be allowed to prevail. Never again should the Haitian people be made to suffer the dishonour and indignity of having a government imposed upon them.
But there are lessons to be learned. A clear and unambiguous message must issue from this Community that it will not tolerate or accept the unlawful and unconstitutional interruption of the democratic process. St Lucia urges immediate amendment to the Charter of Civil Society and other appropriate instruments, to authorize the expulsion of a Member State which repudiates the democratic process by violence and intimidation.
ANXIETY AND FEAR
Colleagues the CSM is truly upon us, notwithstanding the fact that the Single Market comprises only six Member States at present. It is clear that there is anxiety in many quarters, particularly in the smaller territories. We all bear a responsibility to calm those fears and anxieties. Much of this fear resides in the unemployed, the marginalized, and the ordinary wage earner.
AN IMMINENT DEPARTURE
In closing, I wish to extend my sincere thanks to you, the Secretary General and staff of the CARICOM Secretariat for your support, patience and understanding during my tenure as Chairman, at the same time, I offer my full support to our new Chairman, Prime Minister Patrick Manning, and wish him the best, as he pursues his new responsibilities.
For some, the doors in Trinidad and Tobago are open much wider than for others. In this regard, we are not equals, but we all gladly accept the invitation.
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