R. Rose
September 13, 2011
Mout’ open, ‘tory jump out!

In the wake of the shocking revelations in the latest Wikileaks cables about contacts between Caribbean political leaders, government, opposition and civic alike, and US diplomatic personnel, what hope is there for Caribbean people?{{more}}

There are many aspects of this sordid relationship that ought to bring shame to us as a people, but, to be fair to the persons quoted in the cables, the first question that must be posed is one of accuracy. Several of those mentioned in the diplomatic reports have denied the remarks attributed to them and, in the absence of proof, we have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Secondly, and this is crucial, while we can agree or disagree about what was said or not said, and will have our own internal debates and political differences about them, we must not allow foreign interests to pick us off, pit one against the other and so divide us internally, that we are prepared to let them be the arbiters of right and wrong in the Caribbean, or indeed the world.

The overriding tone of the diplomatic cables from the US embassy staff in Bridgetown is a condescending one, speaking of our leaders, (and by extension us all), as people who cannot solve our problems by ourselves and therefore run to the Embassy with every bit of ‘commess’, every complaint we can muster. Persons of my generation and above will remember in the early days of the gramophone, there was a record label called ‘His Master’s Voice’. That label flashed immediately in my mind on reading the cables.

How else can we explain American diplomats writing home to say that one Caribbean Prime Minister complained to them about another of his Caribbean colleagues “dirtying” him with (Venezuelan President) Chavez, and going on to give them a complete breakdown of promised Venezuelan aid to his country. Maybe, again, this is not what the leader said, or he may have been misinterpreted, but it is certainly worrying. Even more worrying is when the diplomatic report says of this former PM, that he “has a history of running to US diplomats when he is in trouble…”

Having said that, whether true or not, the part that galls me most is where the report went on to liken this leader to “…his Eastern Caribbean colleagues across the ideological spectrum…” who seem only bent on “..keeping resources flowing in to ensure (their) political survival”. What level of respect does this exhibit for the leadership of the Caribbean?

The concern of mine, (and can I assume other patriots in the region?), is that these remarks, whether totally accurate or not, are given further currency by other cables mentioning similar kinds of entreaties by others in our midst. They may not have said what they are reported to have said, but what is it that people have been saying to these diplomats to give them the impression that our democracy in the Caribbean depends so heavily on the American stamp of approval that we are virtually relying on these external sources to fight our battles for us? Do we not have enough confidence in our own people to right wrongs, to derail perceived “creeping dictatorships”?

It is true that we need to be far more circumspect in our conversations with foreign diplomats, trained to lead us into the kind of situation where either “he say what I didn’t say”, or “that was not what I meant”. We cannot ‘bad talk’ each other with foreign personnel, who end up using our remarks to cast collective aspersions on us all, and our democracy and governance in the region. This naïve and narrow view of the world that we have has been cruelly exposed by these damning cables, irrespective of their veracity. Whatever the noble intentions, we all have lost as a result.

It is with a heavy heart that I recall the words of that calypso master, Chalkdust, to wit: “White people laughing at we”.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.