Conference of Heads of GovernmentMemberPress ReleasesSpeechesSt. Kitts and Nevis


Your Excellency, Sir Cuthbert Sebastian, Governor General of St. Kitts and Nevis
Dr. The Hon. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community
Colleague Heads of Government;
Other Heads of Delegations;
Hon. Ministers of Government;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Reverend Clergy;
Other Distinguished Guests;
Members of the Media;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

Colleague Heads, this Eleventh Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community is taking place at a pivotal moment in world history; the dawn of the new century, the dawn of the new millennium.

This Meeting of the Conference of Heads is therefore a major milestone for CARICOM. The obligation thus falls to us to make this Eleventh Inter-Sessional a significant milestone in the affairs of CARICOM.

Moreover, Ladies and Gentlemen, this meeting is also taking place at an historic moment in the history of St. Kitts and Nevis. Just last week, the electorate of this CARICOM State enthusiastically renewed the mandate of the Chairman of our Conference, Prime Minister Denzil Douglas. The citizenry of our host country was evidently in full concurrence with the St. Kitts Labour Party’s proposition that “One Good Term Deserves Another”, and they rewarded our esteemed Chairman with an electoral “Royal Flush” for a Second Term.

Last week’s elections results, as I understand it, are the most decisive since 1952, when the St. Kitts Labour Party won 100 per cent of the seats in that year’s elections. I congratulate you, Prime Minister. Few leaders anywhere have seized the New Century as decisively as you have done.

Prime Minister Douglas, it would be remiss of me if I did not specially thank you for insisting to Secretary-General Carrington that this Inter-Sessional Meeting take place in the celebratory afterglow of your resounding electoral victory. I applaud your confidence in your electorate. We should all be so fortunate.

Esteemed Chairman, I am confident that my gratitude at the warmth with which I have been welcomed by the people of St. Kitts and Nevis since arrival reflects the feelings of all Delegations that are here for the Inter Sessional. A people are always more positive towards the world when they get the Government that they desire. We could not have been more warmly received.

Conference Chairman, I will make no secret of my intention of directing the most sincere form of flattery at you, in setting out to emulate the magnitude of your election triumph when the General Elections are held in Trinidad and Tobago, later this year. Large majorities are, after all, so much more functional. They are greatly to be desired, as I am sure my colleague Prime Ministers Arthur, Bird, Ingraham, and Patterson will agree, as no doubt, will Prime Minister Denzil Douglas.

Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me to take this opportunity to congratulate another successful colleague Head, Prime Minister Roosevelt Douglas, on his recent election triumph in Dominica. I am confident that all present will agree that CARICOM’s newest Prime Minister’s assumption of his country’s highest elected office represents not only a significant political development, it is truly a salutary triumph of the human spirit, which has been widely applauded throughout the Caribbean Community.

Prime Minister “Rosie” Douglas, I join in welcoming you to this, your first meeting of the Conference of Heads.

Ladies and Gentlemen, with the orderly conduct of general elections in Member States this year, as last year, the Caribbean Community continues to demonstrate to the world that our nations are model democracies, in which the will of the people is regularly expressed in free and fair elections, free from fear, an entitlement that is sacrosanct in our region.

Colleague Heads, this meeting is historic in a context which is quite separate from those I have already identified. This is the first meeting of CARICOM Heads since the ill-fated World Trade Organisation Conference in Seattle, last December, when consensus could not be achieved on the text of a Ministerial Declaration.

That Seattle debacle has provided CARICOM with the opportunity to regroup and formulate effective strategies for the implementation of a number of agreements, including those related to the postponement of deadlines for developing countries; in such areas as intellectual property and investment protocols.

We need, now, to gear up for the new round of negotiations, so as to ensure that World Trade Organisation Member States will be sensitive to the special vulnerabilities and development needs of small economies such as those of CARICOM. We must, as well, make the time to fine tune the CARICOM agenda for the South-South Conference in Cuba, next month.

Colleague Heads, it is time for action, I submit, in the formulation and marketing of the Caribbean Agenda for the Third Summit of the Americas, which will take place in Canada, next year. In recognition of the reality that early realisation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, as had been envisaged, does not now appear to be a bankable proposition, we should, logically, be moving swiftly and purposefully to strengthen and deepen the Association of Caribbean States alliance.

Moreover, colleague Heads, we should be working with increasing vigour to make CARICOM the fulcrum of an all-embracing Latin America trading axis. As countries that are increasingly being marginalised in the globalisation process, we must find a new resolve to mobilise our forces on the trade and diplomatic fronts, and through the Regional Negotiating Machinery, in order to ensure that we will win support for the retention of our traditional trade and economic arrangements with the European Union.

Colleague Heads, during our deliberations here in St. Kitts and Nevis, we will meet in retreat to discuss key issues, including the allocation of portfolios among CARICOM Heads of Government. Arising from the Consensus of Chaguaramas of October, 1999, the Conference agreed that lead Heads of Government would be appointed in areas pertaining to Services; Environment; Human Resource Development; Information Technology and Telecommunications; Justice and Government; Sports and Culture; and Agriculture and Tourism.

Conference Chairman, I submit that we focus on a number of additional imperatives, as well.

To ensure that critical focus is directed at two imperatives, we must de-link AIDS and Drugs. When we are told that the Caribbean now ranks second among all regions of the world in the incidence of HIV/AIDS per capita, we must recognise that inescapable obligation to treat AIDS as a pressing regional issue that calls for immediate and serious attention and action at the highest regional level.

Similarly, when we consider the fact that in certain communities, an estimated 75 per cent of all major crimes are linked to drugs, we must construct regional demand reduction programmes, distinct and separate from the very effective interdiction mechanism which we already have in place.

Teenage pregnancies is another pandemic problem which demands an urgent regional response from the highest regional level.

Directly related to these three lifestyle issues, I submit, is the destructive impact of the electronic media in shaping attitudes among the young people of the Community.

The Caribbean has been identified as the region of the world with the highest factor of penetration by American television programming. Regrettably, the dominant American television programming consumed by the young people of the Caribbean is largely without redeeming social value to our communities. Instead, American television programming is overloaded with gratuitous violence and gratuitous and promiscuous sex. No society can withstand the unrelenting battering of such television programming without paying a high social cost; certainly not our societies.

Now, added to this, Caribbean societies are reaping the bitter fruit of a relatively new wave of destructive exports from the United States of America to our communities. I speak of the flood of seasoned, ruthless criminals who are being deported to their Caribbean homelands. They are imposed upon us notwithstanding the fact that those criminals are entirely the product of the United States of America’s penal system, dumped on Caribbean societies with woefully inadequate co-ordination, and without adequate assistance for us to cope with this new contagion of violence that was manufactured in the United States of America.

Whether or not we all recognise it, the imminent establishment of the Single Market and Economy means that every CARICOM country’s borders will be relatively open to highly mobile criminal practitioners, weaned in the crucibles of crime in North America. We cannot contemplate just being victims of these elements. We must combine our efforts, now, if any of us are to cope with these marauders.

Colleague Heads, we would all benefit from the establishment of CARICOM Task Forces on HIV/AIDS; Teenage Pregnancies; Drug Demand Reduction; Deported Alumna from the United States Penal System; and a Regional Television Defense Mechanism against the negative impact on Caribbean societies of gratuitous American television violence and sexual promiscuity.

No matter how already crowded our Conference Agenda, I submit that the issues which I have just raised are of such urgency and of such potential destructiveness, that we must make the time to come to terms with them during the next two days.

Colleague Heads, Trinidad and Tobago is unreservedly committed to the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final Court of Appeal for the Member States of the Caribbean Community. The Caribbean Court of Justice will be an indigenous court, necessary for the full independence of the Member States of the Caribbean Community. Such a Court would not only develop a common regional legal policy but, staffed by judges of the Caribbean, would apply laws incorporating a regional ethos and reflecting the social reality of the Caribbean area.

Very importantly, with the proposed Caribbean Single Market and Economy drawing closer to reality, the Caribbean Court of Justice would be required to interpret and apply the Treaty of Chaguaramas. The Court’s original and exclusive jurisdiction would provide the legal certainty necessary for the successful development and the secure future of the Single Market and Economy.

The financial viability of the Court on a sustainable basis will, of course, be of critical importance. Trinidad and Tobago therefore supports the elaboration of the protocol to the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice, to address the mechanisms for ensuring such viability.

As the host country of the headquarters of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Trinidad and Tobago reiterates its undertaking, given at the Seventh Special Meeting of the Conference held in Chaguaramas from October 26 to27, 1999, that the physical facilities of the Court will be completed by October 2000 and will provide suitable temporary accommodation pending the construction of permanent headquarters for the Court.

The point to be noted, Colleague Heads, is that the Single Market and Economy and the Caribbean Court of Justice are at this time inextricably linked. Both are to be implemented in this year, 2000.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as I come to the conclusion of my remarks, I wish to pay public tribute to my colleague Heads, whose insight and energy and regional passion made my Term as Chairman of the Conference of Heads a most enlightening and gratifying experience.

Colleague Heads, you not only assisted me greatly, you taught me much. I thank each and every one of you. I wish also to place on public record my deep appreciation for the sterling work of the Secretary General of the Community, and his establishment. Their immense and enduring contribution to the regional movement has never been adequately defined. They have served their region admirably. They are deserving of our deepest gratitude. Let us salute them for navigating CARICOM into the new millennium safely and with a notable measure of success.

Conference Chairman, Colleague Heads, Ladies and Gentlemen, I end where I began, with the exhortation that we work to make this historic meeting of the Conference of Heads a truly productive milestone for the people of the Caribbean.

My Dear Colleagues, as we proceed with our deliberations, let us be reminded of the counsel proffered by Ralph Waldo Emerson that what lies behind us , and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us, and, may I add, what lies around us. What lies within us, and what lies around us are more than adequate to guarantee that we can help to lay the foundation on which the people of the Caribbean will build the 21st Century as “The Caribbean Century”.

I thank you for your great kindness in giving me your attention this evening.

May god bless everyone of you.
May God Bless all our nations.

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