Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, has called on Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government to do more to highlight the significance of the institution to the people of the region.
The Prime Minister was addressing the opening of the Thirty-third Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government on Wednesday (July 4) in St. Lucia.
She said that while she believes that the Heads are convinced of the importance of CARICOM, she is equally certain that people view the institution with skepticism, in which case, she said, they should work to convince the regional public of the benefits that can accrue from membership in the institution.
“I believe that we, who are gathered here, are convinced of this. I am no less certain that many of our people look on and wonder what all the fuss is about and what is achieved at our summits. I submit that we must do a better job of letting our people know that CARICOM is here to serve them and to make a difference in their lives,” she stated.
Mrs. Simpson Miller argued that in order for the people to accept CARICOM, the Heads must take time to inform and involve them in the process, noting that this will take time but must be done.
“If our people are to appreciate our community… then we must invest in communication and engagement…if we fail to do so, it will be at our peril,” she stated.
She noted that while the regional institution “remains a work in progress”, there have been advancements over the years, among them the forging of cooperation arrangements, and the building of effective institutions to help people to prosper.
The Prime Minister argued that it is the duty of CARICOM leaders to get people to identify with the institution, by embracing the good in it, rather than highlighting what is bad. Noting that there are ample examples of countries coming together to make themselves stronger, she said there is no reason why the region cannot do likewise. She encouraged the Heads to ensure that they make the people feel that they own the institution.
“Is it not our duty to help our people fall in love with CARICOM? If we constantly focus on what is wrong instead of celebrating what is right, then we will become discouraged and weak.
“Let the voices go on from Castries (the capital of St. Lucia), that CARICOM matters, and if it were not here we would have to invent it. So for those who criticize, let me hasten to say, there are countries, which form themselves into blocs, in to unions; what is wrong with our region? As one voice, we will be stronger and more powerful; this is the message but we also need to bring the people of the region into the centre, the heart of CARICOM and let them feel that they are part of CARICOM and that it belongs to them,” she stated.
By George Jude, JIS Reporter