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A little Caribbean political history

Intellectual founding fathers of Caricom: Erroll Barrow, left, Forbes Burnham, Eric Williams and Michael Manley

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, as incorrect as those opinions may be.

This week, Khalid Wasi wrote an opinion on Caribbean history. Considering his constant bashing of the region, I found it an interesting topic for him to write about.

“Certainly, up against the backdrop of that failed [West Indies] federation, it may have been extremely difficult to inspire the thought of a greater regional unity.”

Mr Wasi is either lacking knowledge of Caribbean political history or is wilfully ignorant of it. He ignores that the West Indies federation was essentially a British concept for centralising control and administration of their West Indian colonies before any of them gained independence.

One other particular paragraph really raised my interest.

“Over the years since and with the absence of any mega-government leadership figure emerging, Sir Eric Williams of Trinidad remains the last of the intellectual great ones. Not to suggest there were no great intellectuals, but that none became government leaders.”

In his opinion, there were no great intellectuals who became government leaders. Please allow me a few minutes to point out the obvious flaws in his theories.

Let us start with July 4, 1973 when the Treaty of Chaguaramas was signed, thus creating Caricom (Caribbean Community and Common Market). The founding fathers were prime ministers Errol Barrow of Barbados, Forbes Burnham of Guyana, Michael Manley of Jamaica and Eric Williams of Trinidad & Tobago.

Does Mr Wasi think that one prime minister alone could have come up with this vision, and others just blindly followed? Or was it more likely that these were men of equal intellect and vision for a united Caribbean of independent nations?

One has to take only a few minutes and listen to the recorded speeches of any one of these gentlemen to see that their mental prowess exceeded many who resided at 10 Downing Street or 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Regional leadership

Apart from them, there are tons of examples of Caribbean intellectuals who went on to become leaders of not only their respective islands but regionalists who have shaped the post-colonial Caribbean.

Here are just a few examples:

• Lynden Pindling of the Bahamas

• Robert Bradshaw of St Kitts

• Vance Amory of Nevis

• Eugenia Charles of Dominica

• Maurice Bishop of Grenada

• Ralph O’Neal of the Virgin Islands

• Dame Lois Browne-Evans of Bermuda

• P.J. Patterson of Jamaica

• Patrick Manning of Trinidad & Tobago

• Arthur Owen of Barbados

• James McCarney of Turks & Caicos Islands

• Hubert Hughes of Anguilla

Again, Mr Wasi is entitled to his opinion. However, the reality is that the Caribbean is a potpourri of islands, languages, economies, histories, colonial powers, ethnic groups and political ideologies. There is no singular leader, now or ever, who can be identified as uniting the region. A region that consists of both politically independent and still colonised islands.

Just as the European Union is a collection of countries with vastly different languages, histories and political ideologies. There is no singular EU leader who can ever lay claim to uniting that region. The reality is that there is no need for anyone to do so, as the frameworks of both Caricom and the EU is that member states have equal say in bringing ideas, vigorously debating ideas and implementing regional programmes.

Essentially, the Caribbean really did not need the British centralising its administration and control of the region. It now has regional unity on its own terms and accords.


Mr Wasi also has this as his opinion on December 31, 2022:

“The United States is still, perhaps, the world leader in democratic reform and has continued to develop since the adoption of its constitution in 1789 — bending to the needs of contemporary society.”

Perhaps Mr Wasi can explain how the United States allowed someone such as Donald Trump to become president and prompt the attempted mutiny that the world witnessed exactly two years ago on January 6, 2021.

We await his opinion.

Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at carib_pro@yahoo.com

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Published January 06, 2023 at 7:58 am (Updated January 05, 2023 at 3:17 pm)

A little Caribbean political history

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