BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, in a speech read on his behalf by Foreign Affairs Minister Sen. Douglas Slater, has told the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) meeting that the next six months cannot be business as usual and he hopes that a new CARICOM Secretary General will be appointed by the time the annual summit concludes on Monday.
“On this there can be no further delay, no further temporising, no further provisional or ‘ad hoc’ leadership at the helm,” Gonsalves said in reference to the position hat has been vacant for almost one year.
He told the 32nd Summit of the 15-member regional bloc that Acting CARICOM Secretary General Lollita Applewhaite “has held the fort well but there is an urgency for renewal now”.
Incoming CARICOM Chairman Kittitian Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas would guide CARICOM with safe, reassuring and innovative hands, Gonsalves said.
He, however, added that Douglas would also need the staunch support of the Secretary-General, the heads of government, and member states.
“Like Issachar, one of the leaders of the ancient Twelve Tribes, whose outstanding merit was that ‘he knew the times and knew what was good for Israel’, we must know our times and what is good for the Caribbean. And like Daniel in the Old Testament, we leaders must endeavour always to act with an ‘excellent spirit’. Let’s really try!” he said.
Gonsalves reaffirmed the strengths “which reside in the four major pillars of our regional integration movement”.
He said that in each of these integration activities — functional cooperation, coordination of foreign policy, trade and economic integration, and a coherent rationalisation of regional security –- “there have been, and there are, significant achievements which ought never to be belittled.
“Indeed, it is our duty to build upon them creatively and optimally,” Gonsalves added.
“The sense that CARICOM is sputtering or stagnating, in a context where an overwhelming urgency is required, relates to a core of considerations, namely, putting the ‘single economy’ on ‘pause’ for the time being; stalling on the issue of ‘freedom of movement’; the challenges in the ‘governance’ arrangements and related implementation deficits; and the muting or relative absence of strong, persuasive, integration voices from the regional political leaderships,” Gonsalves said.
He said the conference must contribute to removing the pall of gloom from CARICOM by: Making a realistic assessment of our integration movement’s strengths and weaknesses, possibilities and limitations with a view of enhancing its strengths and possibilities and reducing, as far as is humanly possible, its weaknesses and limitations; Setting optimal, clear-cut achievable targets with reasonable time-lines; and, imbuing the integration movement with an urgent spirit of renewal of refreshing.