Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, on Tuesday (July 4) joined other Heads of Government of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) attending a ceremony at the Chaguaramas Convention Centre in Trinidad and Tobago to commemorate the integration movement’s 50th anniversary.
The inclement weather did not dampen the regional leaders’ resolve during the Golden Jubilee celebrations as they planted trees on the grounds where the historic Treaty of Chaguaramas was signed on July 4, 1973, marking the birth of CARICOM.
Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago are the original four signatories to the Treaty.
CARICOM Heads of Government and Secretary-General, Dr. Carla Barnett, also affixed their signatures to a document that was placed in a time capsule that will be retrieved and read by their successors during the organisation’s centenary commemorations in 2073.
During Tuesday’s ceremonial event, the flags of Member Countries were also hoisted by representatives of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF).
Describing the venue as the “Caribbean Holy Ground”, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and conference host, Dr. the Hon. Keith Rowley, said Chaguaramas holds “a special place in our hearts because of its role in the creation of the Caribbean Community”.
“Had we been present 50 years ago on these very grounds, we would have been privy to events that changed the course of our region’s history. Undoubtedly, the air was filled then, as it is now, with expectation, joy and hope for the future,” he said.
Prime Minister Rowley said CARICOM has used the foundation laid by the four pillars of regional integration – functional cooperation, the coordination of foreign policy, security collaboration and economic integration “to build a home where… all of us can find refuge and purpose”.
“Yet CARICOM has had to contend with its own limitations – limitations that are built into its design, given that we are sovereign states, free to choose our own policies and pursue our own goals. There have been times when, in the last 50 years, these limitations have challenged us, and still here we are today a family of nations replete with the wisdom that comes from facing those challenges head on. We are stronger together,” he said.
Dr. Rowley reminded the regional leaders that whatever divides them would never be bigger than that which unites them.
“We will always be stronger together than we are apart. Let us go towards the future, confident in our strengths, cognisant of our weaknesses and determined to strive through both towards success,” he said.
CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of Dominica, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, said the region must remain united to confront the issues it faces.
“Prime Minister [Rowley] thank you for allowing us to be here [in Trinidad] where the founding fathers penned this integration movement. It is left to us now, the current and future generations, to continue on this effort towards true integration and creating the single domestic space, so that we can truly realise our true potential as a Caribbean Community,” he said.
CARICOM Youth Ambassador, Renée Atwell, urged the leaders to take bold and decisive actions to further advance the regional body.
She applauded the work that has been done by the community to involve and engage young people but suggested that greater effort is needed to empower youth and ensure they are meaningfully engaged in regional integration.
“Regional integration is more critical now than ever before. The global paradigm is shifting, resulting in a far more vulnerable position for the region. Despite this uncertainty, we as a region need to continue to rejuvenate our integration efforts, and in doing so, young people must be included, not only as participants, but as facilitators,” she said.
Ms. Atwell emphasised that the Golden Jubilee celebration is a critical time for reflection and deepening of the integration movement.
During the ceremony, a musical interlude was provided by the TTDF Regiment Band.
The event formed part of activities for the 45th Regular Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) being held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The meeting, which commenced on July 3, will end on July 5.