Mr. Manning’s Mandate
Guyana Chronicle
July 22, 2003

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THE action by the United States of cutting military assistance to six CARICOM member states over their stand on the International Criminal Court (ICC) continues to make the headlines across the region.

That’s to be expected. As nations very dependent on external inflows to complement the incomes they generate from limited economic bases, the six - or any other CARICOM member state - are likely to grumble when any kind of aid stops.

Caribbean nationals are therefore eager to learn how Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Patrick Manning fares when he meets with U.S. President George W. Bush about reversing Washington’s decision.

The result of that meeting, expected to come off in a few weeks, will also determine how Guyana moves on the issue.

Never mind CARICOM heads didn’t come up with a unified position on the U.S. and the ICC, they agreed that each nation should approach the issue in its national interest. Yet, the fact that the Heads mandated Mr. Manning to go to Washington to talk with President Bush says how important the issue is to the entire Caribbean.

We think, after President Jagdeo spoke on the issue at his news conference last week, that Guyanese are fairly au fait with Guyana’s position. Here’s a how the Jamaica Observer views it:

“The leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) need to make clear to the region what negotiating mandate they intend to give Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister, Mr. Patrick Manning, on the International Criminal Court (ICC) when he meets President Bush sometime in the next several weeks.

The Americans… are not fundamentally against the court, which is to try individuals for war crimes, genocide and other acts against humanity. Indeed, it is the kind of court the United States would find useful in the event a circumstance similar to the war in the Balkans were to arise again and they intended to put people on trial. Or, perhaps, they would be inclined, as the victors, to put on trial before the ICC, leaders of the vanquished Iraqi regime after the recent war.

It is just that the Americans do not believe that such a process of international law, with agreed notions of governance, should apply to its own citizens. It is the old case of wanting to eat your cake and have it. Which can happen if you are the world's only superpower.

So the American Congress passed legislation demanding that signatories to the court, on the pain of punishment, should enter bilateral agreements with the United States to not surrender to the ICC, US citizens accused of the kinds of crimes over which the court has jurisdiction.

This month six Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries - Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago - which have signed and ratified the agreement on the ICC found themselves blacklisted by the United States, which cut military assistance to them.

…What precisely is being proposed is what we are concerned about. We have a sense that Mr. Manning is to ask President Bush for a waiver for the Caribbean to maintain its privileges without having to enter these agreements, as is allowable under US law where America considers it to be in its strategic interest to do so.

That, we think, ought not to be the approach - if it is. A slouching, slinking appeal for benevolence. This is one case where we believe that as friends we should talk frankly to the Americans.

If Mr. Manning is to carry a message from the Caribbean to President Bush on the matter, it should be that America by its action is diminishing its prestige and tarnishing the ideals and symbols which made it great to the rest of the world. This, primarily, is that it stood for right and respect for law, which is so richly embodied in its constitution and Declaration of Independence...”

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