WITH the region having to face unprecedented global issues that has disrupted the flow of life for its citizenry, Caribbean leaders are intent on charting a path for greater cohesion among its people to take on these crucial challenges.
High on the agenda for the upcoming CARICOM Heads of Government conference will be the issue of national security for regional territories and measures to help quell the distribution of illegal guns into Caribbean borders.
Prime Minister Philip J Pierre is optimistic about the meeting, which he sees as an opportunity for the region’s leaders to pull together to tackle some pressing global issues that impacts the habitat and livelihoods of people throughout the wider Caribbean
He noted that though the region consists of several ‘sovereign states’, nevertheless, there are several prevalent issues affecting these territories that needs to be tackled in unison.
“There are many like-minded prime ministers …and being like-minded our positions are (shaped) for the benefit of the country individually, and for Caricom generally,” declared PM Pierre, at a recent media briefing.
The National Security Minister recalled that a Security Conference was held in Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) where all member states participated. However, he said, the issue at hand is that as a Caricom unit “we have strength in numbers and right now we have to leverage these numbers for our benefit”.
Pierre hinted that “big celebrations” are being planned to highlight Caricom’s 50th anniversary. He explained that the annual general meeting (AGM) for Heads of Government that was due to be held in the Republic of Dominica, will instead be hosted in T& T “as Dominica has gracefully yielded” citing that the Treaty of Chaguramas was originally enacted in T&T laying the path for unfolding developments in the region.
The Caricom Heads of Government meeting is scheduled for July, 6 in T&T “where it’s going to be a big meeting and all the Caricom leaders will be there”.
Despite the shortcomings and setbacks that the islands have had to overcome, PM Pierre says, “there has been successes in Caricom. The region has had some successes together…in terms of education, we have the CXC, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and in terms of the OECS we have the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) and there are many other successes.”
However, he noted, issues such as Immigration and the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME) “could have been pushed a little more”. Nonetheless, said Pierre, “…we will celebrate these successes and move on to a next level.”
Noting that travel through the region is a critical component and particularly air travel, Pierre said, it is a global issue that not only affects the Caribbean.
He said compounded by the Covi-19 pandemic, the region also had to put up with a shortage of pilots, equipment, training and other issues.
“In the region, it is even deeper because we do not have the number of airlines to provide the service that we need,” added Pierre. “Further, in the region the situation is compounded because the islands are very close to each other…so it’s very expensive to run an airline through the islands.”
Pierre said the matter has been taken up by regional authorities and it is a work in progress. He noted: “We have to understand that air transportation is a public good …people need to travail within the region. Our tourism suffered because of the lack of transportation, but there has been several successful initiatives being undertaken and by July 1st we should have some very good announcements to make, as far as air travel is concerned.”
The prime minister indicated that “we will get to hear some more on air transportation” at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Board of Governors meeting to be held in Saint Lucia, later this month.
Meanwhile, PM Pierre told reporters he was due for a meeting with US Vice President Kamila Harris, on Thursday (June 8), where she will liaise with “the leaders of Caricom and the Dominican Republic, in Nassau, Bahamas to discuss a matter of public interest to the region”.
The prime minister disclosed that the meeting is a follow up to the Summit of the Americas conference that was held in Los Angeles, USA recently. At that meeting, he said, regional leads met with US President Joe Biden “and there were certain factors that we discussed”. The issues discussed also focused on the economic situation, climate resilience, relations between the US and Caricom “and the follow up to these discussions will be with the Vice-President”.
A focal point of the discourse will be concerning the distribution of illegal weapons to the region.
Added Pierre: “We will definitely speak to the vice-president about the flow of arms into the islands … and it’s a follow up to what we already had.”