Column: Caribbean Countries Must Proudly Unite

March 15, 2019 | 48 Comments

[Opinion column written by MP Chris Famous]

This past February, Deputy Premier the Hon. Walter H. Roban and I were chosen to represent Bermuda at the 30th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM held in St. Kitts.

Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed by two, kindhearted Protocol Officers, Ms. Andrea Liddie and Mr. Clive Caines. Both individuals made a special effort to ensure that we connected with other Bermudians living in St. Kitts and also Kittitians who had connections to Bermuda such as Deputy Governor General Hon. Michael Morton and his wife.

As we toured the tropical island each day, we were schooled about many historical sites and were updated about current developments that have helped to move the twin-island federation into a 21-century leader of Tourism.

What is CARICOM?

CARICOM is a political organization representing the Caribbean Community of nations. Founded initially in 1973, there has been a growing membership in CARICOM by Caribbean countries.

To date, the following member states are full members of CARICOM; Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago.

Meanwhile, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands are associate members.

Home Pride

The Conference itself was held for the most part, at the largest hotel in St. Kitts, the luxurious Marriott Hotel in Frigate Bay, where approximately 85-90% of the staff, in all areas, is from St. Kitts or Nevis. It was a joy to see locals, of all ages, happily sharing their culture with guests.

We traversed the other magnificent resorts such as the Park Hyatt and Carambola for meetings on different days. Similarly, each of these resorts was proudly staffed primarily by homegrown talent.

Digital Economies

On day one of the conference, we had the pleasure of hearing from Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development [UNCTAD].

He spoke in depth about the global pressures being exerted on developing nations and the need for these nations to redefine their economies by investing in the digital economies that are growing around Africa and the Pacific. In his words, the Caribbean region should position itself to ensure that they are not left behind.

The second day of the conference saw us listening intently to the President of Estonia, the Hon. Kersti Kajulaid. She spoke of the current changes in this space taking place, not only in her own country but in the neighbouring nations such as Finland and Latvia.

She too strongly encouraged CARICOM member states to invest heavily in this transformative technology.

Having listened to the presentations from both the President of Estonia and the Secretary-General of the UNCTAD, it is crystal clear that Bermudians cannot afford to listen to naysayers and must move forward, judiciously, with placing Bermuda at the forefront of Blockchain and Fintech.

Another topic of much discussion was on methods of ensuring better inter-regional transportation. With 40 million persons residing in the Caribbean region, it is imperative that we have reliable inter-regional transport of goods and persons by air and by sea.

With future plans for improvements in regional, inter-regional tourism, movement of Caricom nationals and food security, discussions were also held in relation to fast-ferry services that can move from island to island with ease and affordability.

It will serve Bermuda’s growing tourism product well to see direct air links to and from the region in order to tap into those 40 million persons residing in the Caribbean.

Later that evening, we were treated to a true taste of Kittitian and Nevisian hospitality when the Governor General of St. Kitts and Nevis, Sir S. W. Tapely Seaton, hosted a cocktail reception and cultural evening at Government House.

Copious varieties of delicious local dishes were served; among these was the National Dish which is comprised of seasoned breadfruit, saltfish, fried plantain and coconut dumplings.

Regional assistance

The matter most strongly debated on the final day was the constant pattern of organisations such as the OECD routinely threatening to put Caribbean nations on economic blacklists, despite the fact that there has never any overwhelming evidence of money laundering occurring in our region.

Individually, the various Foreign Affairs Ministers spoke of the countless efforts to comply with ever-moving goalposts set out by these organisations. Below is a statement about blacklisting, by the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris.

“Each time there is one problem [and] that problem is addressed, by the next time the EU comes around there is a second and third problem. So the goal post keeps shifting in a way that makes management of the industry difficult and creates uncertainty.”

This is no different from what is happening to Bermuda and other Overseas Territories whose economies are based on financial services. For example, approximately 12 per cent of the economy of Nevis is based on financial services.

For Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands, the percentages are much higher. Subsequently, we are all facing the same challenges in one shape or form.

What was most interesting, was that every country stated that there is a need to have a unified voice and have permanent representation in Brussels in order to help defend our positions.

We also endorsed the issues deliberated on prior days. Additionally, further discussions were held in relation to the applications for Associate membership in CARICOM from the following islands; Aruba, Curacau and Sint Maarten.

Deputy Premier Hon. Walter H. Roban voiced that it is very encouraging to see other islands wishing to join the ranks of associate membership.

Recolonization

Of most importance, to us here in Bermuda and other British Overseas Territories [OTs], was when Deputy Premier Roban spoke passionately about the release of the recent report by the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee [FAC].

As this topic was not on the agenda, copies of the report were presented to all Prime Ministers in order for them to be fully briefed as to the implications of the suggested recommendations, In particular, the recommendation to allow UK Citizens to vote and run for office in the OTs.

Needless to say, the entire conference saw this as a form of recolonization, that should never take place.

Unity

In 1946 the nations of the world formed the United Nations.

In 1993 the major nations of Europe formed the European Union.

These nations have utilised their unions to forge long-lasting relations that serve to build relationships, trade and peace between member states.

So too, is the need for us in the Caribbean, to build relations, trade and peace amongst ourselves. After all, there is no other region that will have our concerns as priorities, but we in the region ourselves. We may differ in size, but within the CARICOM orbit, we are equals.

With the ongoing threats of blacklisting, climate change and international terrorism, now more than ever, all Caribbean countries must proudly unite and work together on a daily basis.

- Chris Famous, a PLP MP, can be contacted via email at Carib_pro@yahoo.com or Whatsapp 441-599-0901

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Comments (48)

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  1. St.George's Passport and Immigration Control says:

    Bermuda is not in the Caribbean

    • But we have Caribbean ROOTS.
      So we have ties with the Caribbean Community.
      Get over it already.

      • St.George's Passport and Immigration Control says:

        Onion Juice
        Your Exit Visa is ready for you anytime you decide we have had enough of your drivel.

      • PBanks says:

        Some people would rather Bermuda pull out of CARICOM, avoid participating in CARIFTA Games, avoid sharing experiences in key issues like education, disaster relief, combating illegal drugs, financial pursuits or relationships with the far larger countries like the US or within the EU. It’s like having a relationship with Caribbean countries is a kind of scarlet letter to those folks.

        • Are U talking about your self. There are so many Bermudian that are trying 2 connect with their CARIBBEAN FAMILY ROOTS.Mine is from Bahamas & have done the DNA TEST , just waiting 4 results.

          • PBanks says:

            Sherlene please re-read the thread from the start. I am not speaking of myself but those who would disassociate with anything that even has the scent of Caribbean in it. There appear to be several in this single discussion section.

      • Alyssia says:

        British roots really.

        • PBanks says:

          Many a Caribbean nation has British ties as well, but they don’t have an issue meeting and treating with each other the way that some Bermudians do.

          • Ringmaster says:

            Um, perhaps because they are in the Caribbean?

            • PBanks says:

              Bahamas isn’t but they don’t get their panties in a bunch about the relationships.

      • wahoo says:

        I thought you were a native Bermudian. Are you not 100% Bermudian?

      • question says:

        Some have Caribbean roots, some don’t.

      • 2 Bermudas says:

        Ok, so what’s CARICOM gonna do when the EU puts us on the blacklist? Start putting tarrifs on Italian wine and French cheese?!?! Hahahahaha!!

  2. sandgrownan says:

    So “recolonization” is the dog-whistle du jour is it? That’s the new distraction from abysmal failure that marks everything the PLP touches.

    Glad we cleared that up.

    Did miss the Marley or equally syrupy biblical quote at the top of the piece though, it’s a refreshing change. Your “opinion writer” on holiday?

  3. Truth Speaker says:

    I really hope Bermuda does not join in on this Caribbean concept. We aren’t in the Caribbean, we are like 1,000 miles from it, and we are closer to most places in America ironically. We are also not tropical like all the Caribbean islands, but semi-tropical climate which is more seasonal and relative to our more American location. We are not even in the Caribbean sea. Please do not try to alter what our lovely island is.

    • So should we change the name of the dogs that are German Shepherds if they are born in Bermuda?
      Most Black Bermudians have Caribbean Roots, so we are directly connected.
      Dont worry, we’ll still have the maple leaf flag flying over our airport.

    • PBanks says:

      Dear lord. So you’d have Bermuda avoid any relationship with other small island nations because of geography. You’d cut off a set of allies to satisfy some snooty ‘better than’ mantra.

      Caricom is far more likely to have Bermuda’s back than the US is.

    • Bermudian says:

      Bermuda ok… it isn’t geographically located in the Caribbean Sea nor in Europe.. so we’re neither European nor are we Caribbean is that the logic..

      • wahoo says:

        Hmmm we should tap into this as a new ad slogan. “Bermuda not the Caribbean and not Europe a one of a kind vacation”.

  4. Daren says:

    My mate

  5. Thank you, for your sincere contrbutions to your country. You are NO paper Bermudian. You are of this rich soil!!

    • sandgrownan says:

      Famous is as dumb as you are.

    • Call it like it is says:

      paper Bermudian.

      There are other folks on this island that have connections to other regions and cultures.

      Lets embrace diversity–I fear Mr. Famous does not do this.

      Meanwhile in real news..

      Bermuda is on an international Blacklist!

      • Trump supporter says:

        And to think Cayman and them didn’t get black listed, shows how advanced they are to us. Know wonder there booming and population is growing.

    • question says:

      So you’re good that the children of expats are Bermudian. Now I think we’re getting somewhere.

    • aceboy says:

      Like Tweedy. Boy, talk about recolonization. We have all these first generation Bermudians telling those of us whose families have been here for generations that we aren’t real Bermudians.

  6. Vortex says:

    So given that you note our heavy reliance on the financial services industry, Mr Famous why do you constantly espouse protectionist policies with an obsession on Bermudian (or in this case local staff)? Insurance companies are not hotels, and if you bring in more expats, and encourage and welcome them – they create jobs for Bermudians.

    Nobody I know believes that you or your government truly support International Business.

    • Ringmaster says:

      I believe your final sentence has been proven by Bermuda being placed on the EU blacklist. Arrogant and insular in refusing to take the requirements to stay off seriously because they have no experience in IB. They give lip service but can’t be bothered to attend meetings or file forms correctly or timely.

  7. Mark says:

    Mr. Famous, are you bermudian? If you were, you would know we are not carribean. Thanks but no thanks!

    • Paul says:

      Famous, makes the stupidist comments, how the hell did he get elected ?

  8. Mr. Apathy says:

    Can someone please show Famous a world map to show him that Bermuda is not in the Caribbean?

    You’d think after writing all these op-eds rife with glaring factual inaccuracies, hyperbolic partisanship and general nonsensical drivel, somebody would have called him out on it by now!

    • PBanks says:

      Bahamas isn’t a Caribbean country either but they don’t shun the opportunity to dialogue with places with similar populations, history and culture. Why do some Bermuda residents feel so aggrieved at the relationship?

      • Mr. Apathy says:

        Having dialogue with other nations with similarities to our own isn’t something inherently insidious in and of itself, of course, but Bermuda shares aspects of its population, history and culture with countries all over the world to varying extents – not solely those in the Caribbean.

        By the same token, one could also argue that Bermuda has a population, history and culture that is distinctly different from that of nations in the Caribbean (or anywhere else for that matter) and should be viewed singularly on that basis.

        However, I think it is difficult to shy away from Famous’ repeated history of pointing to the Caribbean as a means of motivating his own personal biases and beliefs to push a political agenda in Bermuda, and therein lies the issue.

        • PBanks says:

          I get that, but we should be able to distinguish from the politics of it and say, sure there are common threads between Bermuda and its southern neighbours… while appreciating Bermuda’s somewhat unique circumstance.

          On a global scale, Bermuda is such a minute speck that trying to approach things ‘alone’ won’t do much. But teaming up with other places with similar goals can only help, for the most part.

    • sandgrownan says:

      I, for one, like these reports on what he did on his last tax-payer funded holiday.

      • Mr. Apathy says:

        Shame he doesn’t write reports on some of the recent questionable, taxpayer funded decision-making his party have been spearheading locally, inna? PLP MPs seem to enjoy a bit of what I call, “selective transparency”!

  9. Kim Smith says:

    No matter the sentiments, Bermuda is not in the Caribbean although we enjoy a community that includes persons from islands in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

  10. biggadon says:

    It always amazes whenever someone seems to be embracing ANYTHING caribbean in Bermuda and the BLOWBACK they get. When our PORTUGUESE community celebrate and embrace their roots or those of English heritage choose to wear red poppies and say LEST WE FORGET, There is no blowback. Come BDA we have to do better our island home is madeup of Bermudians of many different cultures and creeds…. ITS ABOUT WE ACCEPT EACH OTHER AND LEARN TO GET ALONG.
    .

    • biggadon says:

      about time

      • difference is says:

        others aren’t building a narrative to join economic blocks and align with organizations from other geographic regions.

        love the last sentence–like being part of the Caricom region would have prevented us being on the EU Blacklist–doubtful–

        Most of Bermuda embraces diversity–there is however a large group that consistently through their actions tries to “redefine” what diversity means to fit an bye-gone paradigm!!!

        Jah’s blessings abound!

  11. Yooooo says:

    Lmao we’re not even part of d caribbean….

  12. Ringmaster says:

    Chris Famous states that “CARICOM is a political organization representing the Caribbean Community of nations. Note the word “political”. That is incorrect and he should know better.

    “The Caribbean Community is an organisation of fifteen Caribbean nations and dependencies whose main objective is to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members, to ensure that the benefits of integration are equitably shared, and to coordinate foreign policy”. Wikipedia. It is similar to the old European Common Market.

    The majority, if not all, members have diversified economies including tourism, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, oil. Bermuda has only tourism and IB. Not much opportunity for cross trade.

    • PBanks says:

      Agree, bad choice of words by him. Whether deliberate or not, it doesn’t matter.

      Disagree on the diversified economies being in the majority here. T&T and maybe Guyana have oil. Very few have manufacturing or mining as anything significant. Agriculture, sure (although not on the scale as your average Central American country).

      Opportunities for trade with Bermuda are very slim, nobody can dispute that.

  13. Jarhru says:

    Has anyone noticed bermuda is turning into weed island its everywhere who is suppling it? We need to join carocom and have bob marley on our money then

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