Caribbean leaders head to annual summit amidst doubts of progress

Caribbean leaders head to St. Kitts this week for their main annual heads of government summit this year so far, with no dominating item on the agenda, despite the fact that the conference will last for at least three full days.

This will be the third meeting of leaders since they met in March for their half-yearly session in Grenada that was described as one of the most useless and prompted Guyana to fly them down south for a retreat at a resort in its western jungles that also appeared to have yielded little in actual substance.

The meeting from July 1-4 will come just over a week after foreign and trade ministers sat down with U.S. Secretary of State Hilar.y Clinton in Jamaica to discuss regional security matters, the situation in Haiti and efforts to kick-start businesses among Caribbean nationals in the Diaspora with the help of American seed money.

Lolita Applewhaite, acting Caribbean Community Secretary General says that the meeting is likely to devote some time to discuss the high level of relative success the region has achieved in dealing with health issues in the bloc that included CARICOM’s successfull persuasion of the United Nations to host a high-level summit on chronic diseases in New York a few weeks ago.

The upcoming meeting is scheduled to commence with the symbolic opening ceremony on Thursday evening.

Its highlight is likely to revolve around the award of the Order of the Caribbean Community to retired Secretary General Sir Edwin Carrington,73. The award is the bloc’s highest.

Carrington quit last summer after 18 consecutive years but despite two summits since and several meetings of foreign and other ministerial councils, leaders have not yet seen it fit to choose a new secretary general from five people shortlisted by a special search committee.

The opening ceremony will also give a plethora of new leaders like President Suriname’s Desi Bouterse, Freundel Stuart of Barbados, Mihcel Martelly of Haiti and Paula Cox of Bermuda a chance to address colleagues and invitees for the first time since being either elected or appointed during the last year to run the affairs of their own nations.

Sharing the opening speaker’s platform as well will be Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent, Tillman Thomas of Grenada who is giving up the chairmanship after six months, and Denzil Douglas the host and Prime Minister of St. Kitts.

It is unclear what will emerge from the meeting in Basseterre, but if remarks from people like Jamaica-born University of the West Indies academic Norman Girvan are anything to go by, then there is evidence of growing disappointment with the sloth of leaders in making decisions on key issues like free travel in the region. His latest remarks were centered on the recent Guyana jungle retreat.

“I am just seeing another statement of good intention and if I might say so platitudes that the people of the region have quite frankly become tired and cynical about. I am not seeing any concrete or meaningful decisions to address the deep-seated problems of governance and implementation that presently afflict the community and which are at the root of the so-call information deficit,” he said.

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