A Caribbean coming together
Recently, the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman served as the host for the 43rd Annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic region conference. The conference ran from June 16 to 23.
Nearly 100 delegates from almost the entire English-speaking Caribbean region flew into Grand Cayman.
Delegates came from the following countries: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Guyana, Isle of Man, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, United Kingdom.
The conference was spread out over the course of six days to accommodate eight sessions:
• Caribbean Women Parliamentarians on June 16 and 17, focusing on women’s issues
• Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic-region Parliamentarians, from June 18 to 20, encompassing all parliamentarians
• Caribbean Youth Parliamentarians’ debate on Brexit, on June 22
Interestingly, and most fittingly, the CWP session on “Women and Political Parties in Small States of the Commonwealth Caribbean” was for women only. Therefore, I am unable to give any report on that aspect. Bermuda’s two representatives were Junior Minister for Disabilities Tinée Furbert and Susan Jackson. Without a doubt, they represented the women of Bermuda extremely well.
During the main conference, there were four representatives for Bermuda — Speaker of the House Dennis Lister, Susan Jackson, Tinée Furbert and myself.
The first two plenary sessions were on the following topics: “Relevant security systems for government entities including parliamentarians” and “Relevant education systems to build the economies of small developing states”.
During the session on security, the three presenters were Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons in Britain; Brigid Annisette-George, Speaker of the House of Parliament in Trinidad; and Kerensia Morrison, a Jamaican senator.
During the first presentation of the session, Deputy Speaker Hoyle spoke of the security measures put in place to protect the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the British Parliament. Included in their security measures were:
• Armed police
• All mail opened to check for powder substance
• All food double-checked
• Water barriers to prevent persons crossing the moat
Speaker Annisette-George of Trinidad spoke of the experience that happened in her country during the Jamaat al Muslimeen coup attempt of July 1990, when armed terrorists stormed the Houses of Parliament and took MPs hostage.
Since which, the Government has now put in place extensive amounts of security measures to protect both Parliament and parliamentarians. Most notable was the formation of a Parliament Police Unit. This unit of 150 officers is designated with the singular task of protecting elected officials — essentially equivalent to the Secret Service in the United States.
Comparatively speaking, here in Bermuda, we have only one unarmed officer stationed in the House of Assembly.
During the session on education, the presenters were Raymond Ivany, former president of Acadia University; Shirley Osbourne, Speaker of Montserrat; and Alincia Williams-Grant, president of the Senate for Antigua and Barbuda.
During this session, each presenter spoke from a slightly different perspective about ensuring that the Caribbean continues to develop a regional plan that not only increases the level of education, but ensures that the curriculums are suited to what the region will need in coming decades.
A prime example given was that as more and more persons are installing climate-control units in their homes, we must ensure that we have adequate amounts of persons trained in those relevant fields. At the end of the first day’s session, we left the conference room and were taken to a reception at Government House.
In the Bermuda context, Government House is essentially a castle that sits on multiple acres and is extremely well guarded by armed officers. Interestingly enough, in the Caymanian setting, Government House is a modest single-level house that sits next to the beach.
Basically, anyone walking on the beach can wave at the Governor and his guests. Even more interestingly, the Acting Governor was a born and bred Caymanian, Franz Manderson.
Perhaps, just perhaps, we can indeed learn something from the Cayman Islands.
Next week, we will look at the other two plenary sessions: relevant population growth and the effects of deglobalisation.
I can assure you that you will want to hear about these sessions.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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