By Christopher Famous
Recently, our sister Caribbean island of Grand Cayman served as the host for the 43rd Annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s (CPA) Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic (CAA) region conference. The conference ran from June 16 until June 23, 2018.
A total of nearly 100 delegates from almost the entire English-speaking Caribbean region flew into Grand Cayman.
Delegates in attendance were from the following countries:
• Antigua and Barbuda
• Cayman Islands
• Isle of Man
• St. Christopher and Nevis
• St. Lucia
• Trinidad and Tobago
• Turks and Caicos
• United Kingdom
• British Virgin Islands
The conference was spread out over the course of six days to accommodate a total of eight different sessions.
• Caribbean Women Parliamentarians (CWP) held on June 16 and June 17, which focused on women’s issues.
• Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic region Parliamentarians, held June 18-June 20, which encompassed all Parliamentarians.
• Caribbean Youth Parliamentarians debate on Brexit held on June 22.
Interestingly, and most fittingly, the CWP session on “Women and Political Parties in Small States of the Commonwealth Caribbean” was for women only. Therefore, I am unable to give any report on that aspect. Bermuda’s two representatives were junior minister for disabilities, Tinee Furbert, and Susan Jackson. The British Virgin Islands representatives were speaker of the house, Ingrid Moses-Scatcliffe, and Alvera Maduro-Caines.
Without a doubt, they represented the women of Bermuda and BVI extremely well.
During the main conference there were four representatives for Bermuda: speaker of the house, Dennis Lister, Susan Jackson, Tinee Furbert and myself.
The first two plenary sessions were on the following topics: “Relevant Security Systems for Government Entities Including Parliamentarians” and “Relevant Education Systems to Build the Economies of Small Developing States.”
During the session on security, which was moderated by Ingrid Moses-Scatcliffe, the three presenters were as follows: Sir Lindsay Hoyle, deputy speaker of the House of Commons (UK); Brigid Annisette-George, speaker of the House of Parliament, Trinidad, and Senator Kerensia Morrison, Jamaica.
During the first presentation of the session, Deputy Speaker Hoyle spoke of the security measures put in place to protect the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the UK Parliament. Included in their security measures were:
• Armed police
• All mail opened to check for powder substance
• All food double checked
• Water barriers to prevent persons crossing the moat
Speaker Annisette-George of Trinidad spoke of the experience that happened in her country during the Jamaat al Muslimeen coup attempt of July 1990 when armed terrorist stormed the House of Parliament and took MPs hostage.
Since then, the government has now put in place extensive security measures to protect both parliament and parliamentarians. Most notable was the formation of a Parliament Police Unit (PPU). This unit of 150 officers is designated with the singular task of protecting elected officials; essentially, equivalent to the Secret Service in the United States.
Comparatively speaking, in Bermuda, we only have one unarmed officer stationed in the House of Assembly.
During the session on education the presenters were: Raymond Ivany, former president of Acadia University; Shirley Osbourne, speaker of Montserrat; and Alincia Williams-Grant, president of the Senate in Antigua and Barbuda.
During this session, each presenter spoke from a slightly different perspective about ensuring that the Caribbean continues to develop a regional plan. A plan that not only increases the level of education but ensures that curriculums are suited to what the region will need in the coming decades.
A prime example given was that, as more and more persons are installing climate control units in their homes, we must ensure that we have adequate amounts of persons trained in those relevant fields.
At the end of the first day’s session we left the conference room we were taken to a reception at Government House.
Now, in the Bermuda context, Government House in essentially a castle that sits on multiple acres and is extremely well guarded by armed officers. Interestingly enough, in the Caymanian setting, Government House is a modest single level house that sits next to the beach.
Basically, anyone walking on the beach can wave at the governor and his guests.
Even more interestingly, the acting governor was a born and bred Caymanian, Franz Manderson.
In upcoming pieces, I will look at the other two Plenary sessions; relevant population growth and the effects of de-globalization.
I can assure you that you will want to hear about these sessions.