Caribbean must ensure democracy is allowed to prevail
- new Guyana Foreign Minister

Guyana Chronicle
May 22, 2001

NEW Guyana Foreign Minister, Mr Rudy Insanally yesterday stressed that the Caribbean must ensure that democracy be allowed to prevail in the region, noting that development will be difficult if not impossible in the absence of peace and stability.

He made the point in his first official assignment shortly after he was sworn into office by acting President Sam Hinds and assumed the chairmanship of the fourth meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) of the Caribbean.

At the opening at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown, Insanally cautioned that Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states will be continuously challenged to find a unified approach to the questions which must be addressed and to ensure that they are suitably represented in all important fora.

On the political environment, he said development will be difficult if not impossible to achieve in the absence of peace and stability.

He noted that CARICOM has fortunately been spared the severe trauma of conflict which has been inflicted on so many other parts of the world.

It would, however, "be foolish for us to think we are immune from contagion" since failure to take preventive measures can readily lead to infection, he added.

As a consequence, he said, the region must be careful to ensure that democracy, dialogue, tolerance and the rule of law are allowed to prevail in the societies, all of which are the prerequisites for peace, stability and development.

Simultaneously, the region must be alert to external threats to its security, he warned, pointing out that some countries are enmeshed in serious controversies which impinge on territorial integrity and impede economic and social progress.

"All are exposed to more subtle forms of political and economic coercion from dominant states.

"It is therefore imperative that we remain vigilant against these threats and be ready to defend ourselves with the unity and solidarity that are our principal armour against aggression."

The challenges to the common welfare are so overwhelming that as small and vulnerable states, "we cannot hope to overcome them with our limited means", he noted.

Accordingly, the region must develop the necessary imagination and flexibility, to adapt to the new environment to ensure its self-preservation, Insanally said.

"It is perhaps not without significance, I believe, that one of the Caribbean's most popular folk heroes is Brer Anancy, the small but wily spider who was able to compensate for his size by using his brain.

"For though small ourselves, we too can survive and succeed through strategic thinking," he said reminding the gathering that the Caribbean's common history and experiences have "taught us that intellect is not the preserve of the large and powerful."

Small states too can sway the world with the power of their ideas, he said, citing as an example the tiny nation of Malta that first advanced the concept of the Law of Sea which though belittled when it was first advanced, today governs a significant area of international relations.

It should therefore not be too difficult for CARICOM, which has produced two Nobel Laureates and exercised a role in international affairs that is out of all proportion to its size, to fulfill its development aspirations, the new minister said.

But he noted that success will only come to if "our cooperation is animated by a spirit of confidence and must be based on collective rather than narrow nationalistic aspirations."

Referring to the current situation facing the region's cricket, he said the greatest challenge to the community at this stage of its history, was the development of a sense of unity and solidarity to allow it to create the "critical mass" that is now urgently needed to ensure its survival in a rapidly globalising world.

"We must reach out to involve the private sector and civil society as a whole which must be seen not only as beneficiaries of Government's development policies, but also as partners in their formulation and implementation, in a bid to cope with our ever-widening agenda", he added. (WENDELLA DAVIDSON)