ST. LUCIA – CARICOM Chairman, Dr the Hon. Kenny Anthony has called for an overhaul of systems, processes and constructs within the Caribbean Community, even while emphasizing the need to preserve our mature democracies.
At the 33rd Regular Meeting of the CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government, which opened in Saint Lucia on Wednesday, Dr Anthony told the Conference that while there were external challenges with which the Community had to contend, there were also internal weaknesses, particularly in the management of our institutions and our political responsiveness.
Firstly, he expressed “great concern” that the issues related to the management of our institutions were “like recurring decimals,” and insisted that “we really must summon the will to settle them once and for all.”
The CARICOM Chairman echoed similar sentiments as the outgoing chairman, President Bouterse, who had insisted earlier that the Community must change its thinking and dispense with old practices.
Dr Anthony told his colleague Heads of Government at the Summit that they must not fear to reform and reshape the political architecture within regional and national spaces. However, he hastened to warn that because the Community is a diverse and evolving entity, such reform would require flexibility and responsiveness. He added that the economic and cultural diversity of the Community had prompted the need to realise better governance and participation in decision making throughout Member States.
Notwithstanding this however, Dr Anthony urged his colleagues Heads to be wary of those cloaked as “paragons of universal freedom, virtue and justice” and to embrace their home-grown democratic principles and institutions.
“We now manage mature democracies, albeit not without blemishes. I say to all present that the ideal of self-determination should still remain; that we should strive to actualise our own accords and accomplish our political craftsmanship, lest these be driven by storms from across the seas.”
He further called for the refashioning of governance structures at the national level to strengthen our maturing democracies; explaining that “we have won the right to our independence and we should proudly and consciously make these reforms on our own volition, on our own terms; not for the compliance of external requirements or the appeasement of others.” “Mature societies,” he argued, “act freely and not only when forced to do so. If we are to expect better governance, then we must find the courage and the determination to reform our parliamentary processes as well as our electoral machinery and related practices.”
The Saint Lucia Prime Minister added that the Community must also address the issue of corruption and abuse of power and rethink our financial management systems to make them more transparent and accountable to the shareholders of our Member States “… so that it reflects the totality of government operations, not simply that of Central Government.” Such a redesign, he explained, must also include better modes and controls for the financing of political campaigns. In this regard, he singled out Jamaica as a good practice in its recent bid tame the excesses of campaign financing.
In advocating for unity within the Community the Chairman concluded: “We must start again by re-establishing the “political chemistry” that bound us together. We need to re-affirm our common future, our common faith.”