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By Sir Shridath RamphalI hope the advent of electronic ‘readers’ does not mean that there will no longer be books forSir Shridath Ramphalauthors to inscribe to their friends on publication. Some of my most treasured books are of that kind; among them, none more treasured than the copy of From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean 1492 – 1969, inscribed as follows:My dear SonnyWe are both labourers in the vineyard.It is in this spirit that I send you this book.BillThat was 1970. “Bill”, of course, was Prime Minister Eric Williams. The vineyard was economic integration. West Indians were nurturing Caribbean unity from the CARIFTA seedling to the sapling of Caribbean Community. The blossoms of CARICOM and the Treaty of Chaguaramas had actually sprouted. In this lecture, I want to follow that inscription through the decades that have passed, asking what has come of our labours – what is the state of the vineyard?The Eric Williams Memorial Lecture has a distinguished vintage; I am honoured and humbled to have been invited to join the list of those who have given it over the years. I thank the organisers and all those responsible for the invitation, and the Governor of the Central Bank, in particular, Mr Ewart Williams. And I am twice honoured, in giving the Lecture in this special year of the 50th Anniversary of Trinidad and Tobago’s Independence.With Jamaica, you mark this year the first 50 years of West Indian freedom in its larger sense; and you have much of which to be proud.Today (May 26th) also marks 46 years of the independence of Guyana whose initial Constitution I had a hand in drafting as its Attorney-General,But there are ironies which I must share with you – and questions which I hope you will allow me to ask.Fifty years ago, in 1962, I lived among you, here in my West Indian Capital, in Port-of-Spain; in Maraval. I was a younger labourer then; and the vineyard was of course ‘federation’. The West Indies’, with a capital T, the Federation for which West Indian leaders had struggled, intellectually and politically, for 40 years — none more so than Trinidadians like Captain Arthur Andrew Cipriani and Uriah ‘Buzz’ Butler — and for which its people had yearned, (the Federation) was about to become Independent on the 31st May 1962 – 50 years ago.We should have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Independence of the West Indian nation next week. That is how close we came to reaching the ‘holy grail’. Instead, on that same day (31 May 1962), the Federation was dissolved. The immediate cause of the dissolution was, of course, Jamaica’s referendum and Dr Williams’ inventive, and now notorious, arithmetic that “1 from 10 leaves nought”. But these were only the proximate causes. Federation’s failure had many fathers.As Assistant Attorney General of the Federation, I had been drafting the Federal Constitution. My vision, my mission, was regional – an independent West Indies. I left Port-of-Spain on 30th August 1992 for Harvard, where I would be reassured by the example of other federal founding fathers who had overcome their trials – trials much greater and more traumatic than our own – through sustained vision and leadership. I have never lost faith in real Caribbean unity as our regional destiny.Nor, I believe, did Eric Williams. In the last pages of From Columbus to Castro he wrote this:“The real case for unity in Commonwealth Caribbean countries rests on the creation of a more unified front in dealing with the outside world – diplomacy,Wholesale China Jerseys, foreign trade, foreign investment and similar matters. Without such a unified front the territories will continue to be playthings of outside Governments and outside investors. To increase the ‘countervailing power’ of the small individual units vis-a-vis the strong outside Governments and outside companies requires that they should aim at nothing less than a single centre of decision-making vis-a-vis the outside world. [A SINGLE CENTRE OF DECISION-MAKING!].”He had earlier written in those same pages:“Increasingly, the Commonwealth Caribbean countries such as Trinidad and Tobago will become aware that the goals of greater economic independence and the development of a cultural identity will involve them in even closer ties one with another – at economic and other levels. For the present disgraceful state of fragmentation of the Commonwealth Caribbean countries makes it extremely difficult (although not impossible) for a single country to adopt a more independent and less ‘open’ strategy of development.”You see why, within months of writing this, he could be addressing me as a ‘fellow labourer in the vineyard’ – the vineyard of economic integration: the new variety of unity, after ‘federation’ had withered. It was his hope that those efforts – the drive from CARIFTA to Community and the fulfilment of the dream of Chaguararmas could ameliorate the present disgraceful state of fragmentation of the Commonwealth Caribbean countries – a state of disunity he so palpably deplored.From all this two questions seem to invite answers from us, one speculative; the other more definitive. The first is whether West Indians (all of us) would be better off were we celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Independence of The West Indies? The second, given that we abandoned federation, is whether we have rectified what Eric Williams called (in 1969) our disgraceful state of fragmentation.In this special year, the first question is uniquely appropriate; the second, I suggest, is imperative.So let us look at the first. Would we have been better off had the Federation not been dissolved? Any answer to this must make some assumptions; but there are good clues. The first is that the patch-work Lancaster House Constitution agreed to in 1961 would have been the basis of Independence – i.e. a very weak central government; but with a constitutional review in 5 years time.But another assumption is more positive. Norman Manley had pledged that if he won the referendum, he would offer himself for election to the Federal Parliament. His actual words were: “As simply as I can, and with a full heart, I must state that when the first election for a new West Indies comes, I shall offer myself as a candidate.” In other words, Norman Manley might be the Prime Minister of the independent Federation.The new Federal Government would have minimal, indeed miniscule, powers. The Economics of Nationhood, by which Eric Williams placed such store; but whose strong central government so frightened Jamaica, would be in cold storage. The Government would be essentially a vehicle for mobilising the people of the West Indies to nationhood — and with Manley at the helm inspiring in them and in the international community confidence in the maturity of the new Caribbean state.Five years later, constitutional review, against the backdrop of those first years of nation-building, would give confidence to a process of endowing the Federal Government with more substantive but still limited powers. Perhaps, most important of all, would be the gains in the deepening of our West Indian identity and the enlargement of a West Indian patriotism.And they would be years of the West Indian people getting to know each other as never before. The Federal Palm and The Federal Maple – Canada’s thoughtful gift to the Federation – would carry them where only their West Indian spirit had been before in their inter-island travels.Independence for all of the islands would be achieved within the framework of the federation, and each of the Island States would be autonomous within their substantial powers. On the international stage, The West Indies, though still small in world terms,Cheap Jerseys, would have become a sizable player, not least because of the quality and spread of our human resources. And would Guyana, which had inexcusably abstained from the federal project, not have been inexorably drawn in? It would, I believe, have become its unavoidable pathway to independence.Today, on the eve of its 50th Anniversary our national Federal State (with Guyana and Suriname in it) would have comprised more than 6 million people; it would have had vast resources of oil, gas, gold, diamonds, bauxite, forestry, uranium, manganese, tourism, and financial services; importantly, it would have had an educated and talented people who have shown by their global accomplishments, and the demand for their expertise, that they could compete with any in the world community. It would have been a State that commanded our national pride – and respect of the international community – while keeping alive our several island cultures and values.Against what might have been, we have to place what has been. Independence on an Island basis (and I regard Belize and Guyana as islands for this purpose) with our one West Indies formally fragmented into 13 separate states,China Cheap Jerseys, with as many flags and anthems and seats in the United Nations. But, most of all, Independence in the context of very small communities without the checks and balances that larger size brings.In his frank Epilogue to Sir John Mordecai’s invaluable record, The West Indies: The Federal Negotiations, Sir Arthur Lewis,Jerseys From China, after asserting that (t)he case for a West Indian federation is as a strong as ever, concluded his reasoning with the following:“Lastly,Cheap NFL Jerseys China, Federation is needed to preserve political freedom. A small island falls easily under the domination of a boss, who crudely or subtly intimidates the police, the newspapers, the magistrates and private employers. The road is thus open to persecution and corruption. If the Island is part of a federation the aggrieved citizen can appeal to influences outside: to Federal Courts, to the Federal police, to the Federal auditors, the Federal Civil service Commission, the newspapers of other islands, and so on. If the Government creates disorder, or is menaced by violence beyond its control, the Federal Government will step in to uphold the law. These protections do not exist when the small island is independent on its own. So far West Indian governments have a fine tradition for respecting law and order, but in these turbulent days traditions are easily set aside. The West Indies needs a federation as the ultimate guardian of political freedom in each island.”That was 1968. We have had up to 44 years of experience of separate independence to say whether he was right – not only here and in Jamaica, but in all the independences that followed,Cheap Jerseys Free Shipping, in Barbados and then in the smaller OECS islands – and, of course, in Guyana and Belize.Judgement will not be uniform; but I believe that many West Indians, in many parts of our Region, will say that Sir Arthur was right – and is; and that the answer to my speculative question is ‘Yes’, we would be better off as West Indians, were we celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Independence of the Federated West Indies.”(to be continued)(Sir Shridath ‘Sonny’ Ramphal QC served as Commonwealth Secretary-General for 15 years, from 1975 to 1990. He previously served as the Attorney General and Foreign Minister of Guyana)
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