PRESS RELEASE BY The Joint Parliamentary Opposition Parties For CARICOM DAY, Monday 7 July 2008




CARICOM AT 35–TIME FOR A NEW AND BETTER DEAL

The Joint Parliamentary Opposition Parties of Guyana - (the People’s National Congress Reform-One Guyana, the Alliance for Change and the Guyana Action Party/Rise Organise and Rebuild) - reaffirm their commitment to the Caribbean Community integration process on the occasion of the 35th Anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas (CARICOM DAY 2008).

When, in July 1973, the Treaty of Chaguaramas was signed, by the then Heads of Government of four (4) Caribbean States, it was intended that a new epoch of Caribbean unity and cooperation would be entered into whereby the nation states of CARICOM, and more particularly, their citizens, would enjoy unprecedented benefits, rights and freedoms which would position them well within the developing world. It was with this noble intention in mind that the Charter of Civil Society was endorsed by CARICOM heads, in 1997.

Increasingly, within recent times, the citizens of the member states have had cause to question the validity, efficacy, and relevance of the institution, as it makes decisions and implement them.

Unfortunately, the occasion of the Thirty-Fifth anniversary of CARICOM finds more and more citizens feeling excluded from the process of forging togetherness. This feeling of alienation was captured in the words of the recipient of the Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC), George Lamming, who described the disconnect between Governments and the citizens in this way: “there is, in my view, an impermissible social divide between the political classes and the populace…from one end of the Caribbean to (the other),… And that divide has led to a serious crisis in communication.”

It is in the vein of growing dissatisfaction, that the combined Parliamentary Opposition Parties of Guyana presented a Petition to the Heads of Government of CARICOM for their consideration. This was done with the legitimate expectation that, as the Heads of Parliamentary Parties, albeit not in Government, their concerns would have been seriously considered. It is obvious that the discontent and distress in one state is a threat to the entire Region.

The emissary of the Parliamentary Opposition, Mr. Oscar Clarke, (General Secretary of the PNCR), delivered the Petition to the Secretary General, H.E. Edwin Carrington, and the current CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister H.E. Baldwin Spencer, of Antigua and Barbuda, at the Conference venue in Antigua, on Tuesday 1 July 2008. The Petition was signed by more than eight thousand Guyanese citizens, from all ten regions of Guyana and Guyanese in the Diaspora.

Regrettably, the Conference has concluded and we have, to date, received no information on whether the Petition was discussed, or placed on any future Conference Agenda for discussion. There is not even any reference to its submission in the End of Conference Communiqué.

For the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference and the CARICOM Secretariat to fail, or refuse, to listen to the voice of one citizen is a travesty; to totally ignore the voices of thousands, as in this case, is antithetical to the values of the founding fathers and the spirit and intent of CARICOM. This should be a matter of grave concern, for all within the Region, and raises serious doubts, as to whether the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference and the CARICOM Secretariat are in touch with the socio-political and socio-economic realities affecting thousands of citizens, within the 15 member organization.

Heads of Government of CARICOM must work earnestly to address the real concerns of the ordinary people, such as crime, hunger, justice, daily infringements of their fundamental human rights and equality.

In the circumstances, the Parliamentary Opposition Parties of Guyana and their constituents are not in a celebratory spirit, on this the observance of CARICOM Day 2008. Consequently, we could not, in good conscience, participate in a celebration, organized by the Caricom Secretary General, at the CARICOM Secretariat in Guyana, to mark the occasion of the 35th Anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas.

It is time for a new and better deal which recognizes and defends the rights of all of the Caribbean’s peoples and not just the few who are elected into Government.

Joint Parliamentary Opposition Parties
Georgetown, Guyana
Monday 7 July 2008