CaribWorldNews, PHOENIX, Arizona, Fri. Nov. 3, 2010: Trinidad and Tobago`s Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar caused a stir in regional circles a few months ago when she declared that Trinidad and Tobago would no longer be the region`s ATM machine.
The Prime Minister may have been trying to distance her new government from her rival People`s National Movement (PNM) which has historically had been charitable to Trinbago`s less affluent regional partners.
But it was an insensitive statement from a prime minister whose historic election was generally welcomed across the region. Coming as it did on the heels of the unpopular hardline stance by Barbados on the immigration issue, Bissessar`s position was correctly located in a worrying anti-integration trend that seems to be gaining steam.
If the prime minister`s critics could have been charged with jumping the gun, their suspicions were vindicated this past week when Ms. Persad-Bissessar announced that Trinbago`s aid to her CARICOM sister countries ravaged by Hurricane Tomas should be determined by how much Trinidad benefits from such assistance.
This is the most shocking regional policy proposal from a Caribbean leader in recent times that should be strenuously pushed back. When this recent position is linked to the previous ATM statement, one would not be out of place to conclude that the current Trinbago government is emerging as the most anti-integration administration in the region. Simply put the prime minister is out of order.
Opposition leader, Dr. Keith Rowley is correct to decline the prime minister`s invitation to be part of her scheme. He has taken a principled position. Now the partners in the People`s Partnership must speak up -particularly Errol McLeod and Makandal Dagga – who both have had a deep commitment to regional integration.
The Trinbago government has a right to look out for the interest of the people of the twin-island state. But not in the manner that is being proposed. This smacks of the worst kind if selfishness which is inimical to the spirit of integration. Caribbean leaders and citizens have to learn to balance their individual civic nationalism with regional nationalism.
We have to learn how to be simultaneously Trinbagonian and Caribbean – the two are not in conflict and should not be projected as such. The people of St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Barbados are dealing with widespread trauma caused by Mother Nature and understandingly need assistance. This is hardly the time to play big sister politics. This is not the Caribbean tradition. This is not the Trinbago tradition.
I end this commentary by referring to something that is often uncomfortable to talk about – race. Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar cannot be ignorant of a feeling in some quarters that her United National Congress (UNC) has not been enthusiastic about CARICOM for ethnic reasons.
During the last UNC administration, the possibility of an alliance with Guyana and Suriname, where East Indians are dominant, was placed on the agenda. While I do not share this view of the present government, the prime minister`s attitude to giving assistance to St. Vincent and St. Lucia can only add fuel to the views of the skeptics. – Commentary by Dr. David Hinds/Special to CWNN.
Dr. David Hinds lectures in Caribbean and African Diaspora Studies at Arizona State University in the USA. To read more of is commentaries and other writings on Politics and Society in Guyana and the Caribbean visit his GuyanaCaribbeanPolitics.com website.