Caribbean Islands Must Join as One
Howe, Darcus, New Statesman (1996)
I have been back to the Caribbean for four days, there to attend a funeral of a dear friend "hid in death's dateless night". In the short time since I was last there (May/June), so much has changed socially and economically. There has been the explosion on to the international stage of Usain Bolt and the other sprinters from Jamaica and Trinidad who stormed the Beijing Olympics. Their successes have lifted confidence among Caribbean people everywhere. And yet, there is also a social crisis on the agenda.
A one-day national strike has been called by trades unions in Trinidad because of the huge gap between rich and poor, rising prices of goods and services, and the failure of the government of the day to offer any release in difficult times. It promises to be a huge success. The economic crisis is further illustrated by the recently elected government in Grenada announcing that there is no money in the treasury to pay public servants. Other islands may well be sailing in the same boat.
Out of this mess, an economic and political union of the eastern Caribbean islands was declared by Patrick Manning, the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago. Some commentators have been saying that he appears to have gone to bed of an evening and woken up the following morning having seen an apparition in his sleep.
This idea of federation has never been discussed in Manning's political party, or at least not in public. The people of these tiny islands know not how such a union will affect them. Voices have been raised for a referendum. Manning replies, in one sentence: "We don't believe in referenda here." He has gone ahead, signing a declaration with Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia. These islands, he says, will establish a single economy by 2011 and political union by 2013. All these announcements and declarations serve only to whip up Caribbean islanders into a frenzy.
But, of all these statements, or the lack of them, the most important, in my view, was a speech delivered by Peter Millington, a member of the Barbadian senate, who spoke about the rising materialistic culture in Barbados and the new trend whereby Barbadians happily state that they are not their brother's keepers. …