Regional Leaders Must Make a Difference

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Caribbean leaders must see their annual Heads of Government Conference as a platform for enriching the lives of the people of the region.

This was emphasised by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as he addressed the Opening Ceremony of the 34th Regular Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on Wednesday at the Diplomatic Centre in Trinidad and Tobago.

Mr. Stuart said that as leaders meet to tackle some of the pressing concerns of the region, the occasion presented a unique opportunity for them to ensure that in the 40th anniversary year, at a time of unprecedented challenge, they remained ???anchored in their determination to make a difference and justify the faith of the founding fathers of our regional integration movement???.

Recalling the visionary leadership of the original signatories of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, Dr. Eric Williams, Forbes Burnham, Michael Manley and Errol Barrow, Mr. Stuart threw out a challenge to his counterparts to live up to the hopes and expectations of Caribbean people.

???Upon the shoulders of the present generation of the leaders of the Caribbean devolves the awesome responsibility of remaining faithful to the dreams and aspirations of the people of the Caribbean, especially the youth. While not sacrificing our sense of urgency, we must steer clear of over-ambitious undertakings, manifestly unrealistic deadlines, and the colliding agendas of a fruitless multiplicity of meetings.

???To do otherwise is the surest way to set our people up for disappointment??? and the surest way to open the door for a disturbingly increasing number of Jeremiahs in this region who let slip no opportunity to spread unnecessary alarm, despondency and despair,??? he said.

Affirming that the way forward would not be easy, but would necessitate some pain and sacrifices, the Prime Minister said it was imperative that Heads of Government come up with workable solutions to the problems.

???It is at a moment like this that the leaders of this region have to be reminded that our people do not live by bread alone, but also by the continued affirmation of faith in the values and the virtues of the civilisation which the regional integration movement is intended to reinforce.

???Our people must be reminded that it is only in the context of a properly functioning integration movement that we can find that crucible in which our social and economic arrangements can be melted and recast,??? he stressed.

Mr. Stuart said the region could ill afford any delays in charting the way forward, but now was the time for ???perspective, not platitudes; creativity, not commonplaces; [and] innovation, not imitation???.

???We must tell the Caribbean story again and again. We must beat our drums out loud – the Tassa; the Conga; the Djembe! The path ahead has already been illumined by the likes of Arthur Lewis, V.S Naipaul and Derek Walcott… Lara, Sobers and Richards…Sparrow, Marley and Rihanna???James, Beckford and Eric Williams! And who could forget Usain Bolt,??? he added.

Today, July 4, is CARICOM day, and one of the highlights of this year???s 40th anniversary celebrations, will be the re-enactment of the original signing ceremony by the prime ministers of the original four signatory nations of the treaty of Chaguaramas. Those four nations who signed in 1973 were Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

cathy.lashley@barbados.gov.bb

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