Their expectations of the CARICOM Heads conference What the People Say about:
By Andre Haynes
Stabroek News
July 1, 2002

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The Twenty-third Meeting of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government begins this week in Guyana. As the CARICOM leaders deliberate on the various issues affecting the member states and the region, we asked the man/woman-in-the-street for their opinions and expectations of the conference:

Dexter Hatton - painter/plumber: `The conference will only be different Heads of Government with different perspectives and all that will happen is the same talking. Look at how the European Union has come together and have created a single economy. The objectives of CARICOM are the same, but some countries want it and others don't. What they don't understand is what it would mean, especially for poor countries like Haiti and Guyana, who are not doing well economically. CARICOM is a far way from achieving its goals. They said there would be the free movement of goods, services and people between the CARICOM communities, but Guyanese are still being hassled when they travel to Barbados. They said it would be possible. But I hope at the conference they can focus on the fight against AIDS in the Caribbean, especially in the area of finance towards research.'

Lloyd Williams - company manager: `If I can be circumspect, if it is that they are here to buttress a government that is sorely in need of legitimacy, then their time could be better spent. I doubt whether they could, in such a short length of time, address the iniquity, the degradation and the haphazardness of the government, and of the country. We are at a point where a vast number of our people are unable to find work and are in desperate straits. What would their meeting be doing for those who are disadvantaged, deprived of sustenance? I doubt very much. No doubt they will be drinking the finest clarets and our most elite will protect them. We may see them waving an elegant hand at us as they motor through the city and perhaps toss us a smile or other. That's it. There's nothing in it for us, we are poor, we are undernourished; there is no mobility of skilled labour. CARICOM is nothing, absolutely nothing, but a sinecure for the bourgeoisie.'

Geia Mendes - teacher: `I have no expectations from the conference with the criminal activities in the nation now. But with regards to the Chairmanship acceding to Guyana, I don't think the President can function as the leader of this nation and the Chairman of CARICOM at this time. CARICOM has been successful to an extent, but look at Barbados, there is still some controversy there, however she is still a CARICOM sister. What I would like is for Guyana to be more actively involved in CARICOM. We were one of the countries that was there at the beginning, we should be actively participating. But we only hear about Trinidad and other countries. We need to participate.'

Dr Cheddi `Joey' Jagan: `I hope that it will be a success. However, it seems to me we are always hearing about a meeting of Heads-of-Government and meanwhile, the country is becoming worse.

So what are they meeting to do?

I hope they can produce something of substance to help the people of the region. But I wish the President would stop grandstanding with trips and summits like these and start to produce better results for the people of Guyana. We are hearing all about the conference, but what are they doing for the region?

Nancy Jones - private sector employee: `I think a lot of good will come out of the conference and it will be good for the country. When all the nations meet each other, there is always a chance for unity.

This conference will be one of those opportunities for the Caribbean region and for Guyana.

And I hope CARICOM can continue doing the work it has been doing. They have had some achievements, look at the stability in the region.'

Dennis Ward - public relations manager: `I would like the Heads of Government to address urgently, the freedom of movement of citizens within CARICOM. I believe it would be the first step to bringing the people of CARICOM closer together. If the people are integrated they would have a better knowledge of each other's culture.

There is not enough knowledge of what goes on in each country, especially at the grassroots level. There is also a lot of talk about globalisation, which I hope will be discussed at the conference, because the full integration of CARICOM would make it easier to embrace the current trend.'

Tiesha Wilson - student: `I welcome the conference, especially at this time when there are a lot of evils in the region.

There is police brutality and a high crime rate and there is a lot of poverty in the region, everywhere you look you see children living on the streets.
It would be very good if that is one of the issues they can address at the conference and also when the President becomes chairman.'

Kenneth Johnson - ex-soldier: `They are supposed to be looking at the issues. But look at what is happening now: There are taxes and duties on goods that are imported and exported.
This is a big problem. I think the President becoming the chairman is a good move and I am expecting him to pursue the issue of free movement between the nations. They are a lot of hassles when we (Guyanese) travel to other countries in CARICOM.'

Akann Sullivan - video photography: `I hope at the conference they will place emphasis on the more underdeveloped countries in the region. That is what the conference should be about: The poorer countries. I don't think CARICOM has achieved much, especially if you look at travel within the region, there are always a lot of problems. But I hope they can look at the issue and open the gateway for free access. For instance, look at Guyanese travelling to Barbados, they give you a hard time. In that aspect at least, I think a lot more needs to be done. CARICOM isn't a bad idea and whatever they discuss I hope they put into action.'