February 20, 2015

Our region has really gone thru

Ireland’s victory over our team at the World Cup marks a new low for us in cricket. This can hardly be denied, even when you take into account the fact that Ireland has created upsets before. That defeat was more than a simple upset. It came after our total humiliation in South Africa. If that was all, it wouldn’t be so bad, because our team is capable of doing the unthinkable at times.{{more}} It is one team you will never want to bet on or against. But the political tutu in St Kitts/Nevis and recent Privy Council decisions in cases involving Sir James Mitchell and Team Unity in St Kitts/Nevis indicate that something is seriously wrong. We are slowly becoming a failed region, while individual countries are going nowhere very quickly.

I have always said that the problems in West Indies cricket parallel problems in the wider society. It is interesting that one of the West Indian cricketing greats and now a respected commentator, Ian Bishop, seems to be making that point. In a recent interview, while commenting on the fortunes or misfortunes of our West Indian cricket team, he said, “It’s a reflection in the decay of values in general in the Caribbean, in all walks of life.” When our West Indian team stormed and dominated world cricket, the atmosphere in the region was one of optimism and confidence. Today, not so and this is reflected in our cricket. While talking about cricket, we have to remember that it is touted as one of the pillars of West Indian society, one that helps keep it together.

Let us look at other areas of decay. What happened in St Kitts/Nevis on Monday night/Tuesday morning is nothing more than a disgrace and a reflection of the depth to which we have sunk, we who still pride ourselves on our democratic credentials. What is interesting about the events is the hypocrisy that has taken hold of our leaders and the apathy of our people. Caricom has suddenly come alive, awake from a deep slumber. Listen to their statement on the events that had been unfolding in St Kitts/Nevis: It asked that ‘all concerned’ fulfil their obligations to the electoral process; “respect the will of the people and ensure that the democratic traditions of the Caribbean community are upheld.” But it is not only our leaders who are raising those concerns. Wednesday’s editorial in the Jamaica Observer found the situation “disgraceful and embarrassing to the Caribbean community.”

Is the region made up of mad leaders being cheered on by equally mad people? Everyone is now concerned about protecting our democracy. Where were they when Timothy Harris’ ‘Team Unity’ was appealing to them to speak out against the democratic abuses in his country? The Government failed to address a vote of no confidence that was introduced since 2012. Do we all remember when a delegation from ‘Team Unity’ came to try to get the ears of Caricom leaders who were meeting here? I have recently looked at a video with Prime Minister Gonsalves making fun of them for meeting with ‘losers’. Sitting next to him, grinning as though he had gotten the biggest of jokes, was Freundel Stuart of Barbados. Did they not see what was happening in that country as a grave and dangerous threat to democracy? Suddenly they are so concerned about the preservation of democracy, even though it is being imprisoned in their individual countries. One has to single out the position taken by Arnhim Eustace and the NDP, who were among the few critical voices to be heard on the matter. During that Caricom meeting in SVG, Keith Mitchell was one of the leaders willing to make a comment on the matter about which the team from St Kitts was protesting. I do not know what the St Kitts/Nevis constitution says about motions of no confidence, but one thing that is established in the tradition from which we weaned our constitution is that ‘votes of no confidence’ are to be given priority. It is even more critical when the government finds itself in a minority. So, this professed concern about protecting our democracy is a lot of hogwash.

The other area that should be of great concern for our region has to do with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). I have always been a strong supporter of the CCJ, since I am of the view that we could never claim to be truly independent while clinging to the apron strings of the Privy Council as our final Court of Appeal. The Son Mitchell and Team Unity issues beg the question of whether or not they would have gotten a fair deal in the region. I do not subscribe to the view that we do not have quality judges. Perhaps the smallness of the region and the fact that we know one another becomes factored into the judicial equation. I am now beginning to question my commitment. But what is more important is that these cases are poisoning our minds against the Caribbean Court and even though every effort was made to isolate it from the perceived deficiencies of the other courts, our people see justice as a whole and care not to draw that distinction.

Then we have LIAT and Caricom. LIAT, in light of falling revenue, is in its latest brainwave setting up a technical team to deal with that matter. Although that issue is a very important one, there is a lot more involved, as the government of Antigua and Barbuda will attest. Caricom, although providing some services and benefits, is not likely to go much further. Decisions accompanied by highfalutin talk will continue, but then nothing happens. What a region!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.