By Ken Richards
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) -- The current crop of Caribbean leaders must take the blame for the present status of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), according to Dominican activist and hotelier Atherton ‘Athie’ Martin.
Dominican hotelier and activist Atherton Martin
Martin told Winn FM’s The Bigger Picture that he agrees with critics who suggest that the integration process being spearheaded by CARICOM is now on the backburner, and that CARICOM is at the crossroads and stagnating.
He is using an exhaust pipe versus engine analogy to articulate what he considers the malaise plaguing CARICOM.
“The reason CARICOM is ineffective is that the leadership in more recent times, over the last two decades or so the leadership of CARICOM has abandoned the engine of CARICOM, and presumed to replace that engine with an exhaust system – which is the leadership, the leadership is the exhaust system and they presume to lead, while the engine has been switched off,” Martin said.
“The engine of CARICOM is the people of the Caribbean, and the people of the Caribbean have been left out of the essential discourse of the region,” the activist contends.
“And we thought that by electing leaders who would go and make deals with whoever they make deals with that we would actually, magically move forward?” he queried.
“The engine has got disconnected and eventually switched off and the exhaust system is still belching out a bunch of you know noxious fumes largely coming from the political leadership of the region. And that’s the problem,” he argued.
According to Martin, CARICOM is probably in the intensive care unit “because we stopped feeding it, we stopped feeding the engine”.
Martin is a former government minister and former president of the Caribbean Conservation Association.
CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque said on Friday that the Caribbean Community Secretariat has begun the process of restructuring with reforms instituted in corporate areas, human resource management, finance, and in the way projects are managed.
He indicated that the Secretariat’s work programme had also been redesigned to provide for a more outcome-oriented focus guided by goal management.
However, Martin believes much more radical action is necessary.
He argues that the present heads of government have lost the vision that was being pushed by the Caribbean leaders of the past.
Martin has been criticizing the move by St Kitts and Nevis and Grenada to join ALBA – the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas.
Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Lucia already belong to the grouping, and Martin says that signing up to ALBA without consultation could hurt the OECS and CARICOM.
LaRocque, the chief executive at the CARICOM Secretariat, says there is still some way to go, but change is underway.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network