Caricom is the planet’s largest grouping of mature democracies outside the European Union. For over 40 years, every member country (except Haiti and Suriname) has maintained a free press and independent judiciary, and regularly held free and fair elections. Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Vincent, and Trinidad all rank as Free Countries on the Freedom House Index.

Again other than the EU, no other multi-national entity can make the same boast. Politically incorrect it may be to say so, but Caricom has proven that you don’t have to be a mainly white European descended country to be a stable democracy.

(Poor odd man out Haiti, was not part of the original Caricom, and never experienced Westminster political principles as did former British Caribbean colonies. With such a different culture, it was likely added out of understandable sympathy, and perhaps a so far unrealized hope of democratic osmosis. The other non-Commonwealth late joiner Suriname has also suffered major problems such as a civil war, but hopefully has stabilized. The only democratic disruption among English speaking members was the 1979-1983 period of coups, one party rule, assassinations, and invasion in Grenada. Happily this has so far proven a yet to be repeated one off.)

Without Haiti – which rarely attends meetings due to political turmoil - Caricom’s population is 7 million. Yet its members constitute 14 of the United Nation's total of 193, giving it 7% of the vote. It is 23% of the Commonwealth at 12 out of 52. With 14 out of 35 it makes up 40% of the Organization of American States.

Without this unique ‘votes to population’ ratio - 50,000 St Kitts has the same one UN vote as 1.4 billion China – Caricom would be just another ‘waste of time’ talking shop. But geo-political math gives it tremendous potential influence in global affairs.

Its democratic stability and numerical clout should make Caricom a powerful global force of freedom, promoting democratic values of fair elections, rule of law and press freedom. Its unspoken message to areas struggling to establish lasting democracy – Latin America, Africa, Arabia, large swathes of Asia – should be “If we can do it, so can you!”

But rather than being a respected, united champion of democracy, Caricom is a fractious, global laughing stock. It never agrees on anything for long, nor supports nearby neighbours yearning for freedom. Fighting imaginary, outdated ideological wars, it tries to justify so called ‘socialist’ dictatorships in Venezuela and Cuba instead condemning them.

In the aftermath of his unfortunate injury, and we all hope for a speedy recovery, St. Kitts PM Ralph Gonsalves affirmed his belief in the vote as the “basis of governmental legitimacy”. Current chair and Antigua PM Gaston Browne reiterated, “There is no place for violence and personal physical assaults in our Caricom democracies where the rule of law prevails and rights, including the right to peaceful protests, are fully upheld.” Yet they ignore the cries of the Cuban people for exactly these things: a legitimately elected government, the rule of law, and the right to protest without being physically assaulted.


It recently reached a new nadir by helping to block an Organization of American States (OAS) meeting on the current Cuban situation.

You would think Caricom and especially Jamaica would want an urgent discussion on a country 90 miles away arresting reporters, brutalizing protestors, and cutting off internet access. The Cuban people are simply asking for what Caricom takes for granted: freedom to speak openly and choose their own leaders. Jamaica’s mealy mouthed ‘We didn’t vote with the rest of you because of a mix up but we intended to’ made me ashamed of my country.

What Caricom should be saying is: “United States, please end the unjust embargo on Cuba. Cuba please allow press freedom and let your people choose their leaders democratically. We are against both imperialism and dictatorship. We understand both sides of the coin, and we are quite willing to act as honest brokers in any negotiations.” But instead of being a beacon of freedom, Caricom has proven a cowardly moral and political disgrace.

The Press Association of Jamaica has been just as disgusting about the violent intimidation and imprisonment of their Cuban compatriots. Where is their response to this call?

“Cuban authorities should immediately release all detained journalists, stop disrupting internet access, and allow the press to cover protests freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today July 14.”

Jamaica’s #7 World Press Freedom ranking (out of 180 countries) is one of our proudest achievements. But we are hardly deserving if we do not use its prestige to push for greater press freedom elsewhere, especially in our sphere of the world. And we watch journalists being brutalized and locked up in our closest neighbour without a peep? What sickening hypocrisy. Every member of the PAJ should hang their head in shame.

Western democracies – EU, US, UK, Canada - are the world’s richest entities, and whatever their faults, the bastions of freedom and human rights. How could they not love to have Caricom as a potent partner for promoting democracy in the non-European descended world? For Caricom is the world’s strongest argument against the cynical view that ‘Democracy only really works in white countries’.

And do you think a Caricom working closely these countries on promoting democracy globally, would not have had most favoured nations status on most matters? Like for example, getting covid-19 vaccines early and in abundant quantities?

If we really believe it is not only the most practically efficient, but also ethically best form of government, we should be partnering with western powers as a spearhead in the fight to spread democracy across the earth.

The obviously right thing to do from the point of both morality and self-interest, would be to always present a united front at international bodies, and always defend free speech, fair elections, and the rule of law. There lies our route to wielding real global clout.

When I sat on the Caricom Review Committee in 2016, a few things quickly became clear. Sitting PMs, focused mainly on re-election, had little time for regional matters. Caricom is run by bureaucrats, focused mainly on job preservation. The only ones who seemed aware of Caricom potential global power were ex-PMs.

Caricom as currently constituted is dysfunctional. To help improve its decision making, the Golding Report proposed the formation of a Caricom Oversight Committee, consisting mainly of former Caricom Prime Ministers, aided perhaps by retired leaders from other sectors of Caribbean society.

The primary goals of the COC would be:

1. To assist current PMs to more thoroughly investigate Caricom related matters before making decisions.

2. To help maintain public unity among Caricom members, especially on controversial issues.

3. To help create more relevant agendas for Caricom Heads meetings and to ensure proper preliminary discussions and preparation.

4. To help active Caricom heads create and articulate a strategic vision for Caricom.

5. Above all the COC would help ensure that Caricom always speaks with one voice.

The Golding Committee examined all unity enhancing alternatives. The COC was seen as the one most likely to work. There is no guarantee it will. But in the absence of other options, it is worth a try, if Caricom is deemed worth rescuing. Caricom's status quo of constant chaos means lost opportunity costs probably exceed benefits. It is presently a waste of Jamaican taxpayers’ money. Unless it commits to structural reform, it serves no purpose and might as well be abolished.

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