Labouring in the Vineyard – Sir Shridath Ramphal

Labouring in the Vineyard

Sir Shridath Ramphal’s Eric Williams Lecture in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, on May 26, 2012.

I hope the advent of electronic ‘readers’ does not mean that there will no longer be books for authors to inscribe  to their friends on publication. Some of my most treasured books are of that kind; among them, none more treasured than the copy of From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean 1492 – 1969,   inscribed as follows:

My dear Sonny
We are both labourers in the vineyard.
It is in this spirit that I send you this book

That was 1970. “Bill”, of course, was Prime Minister Eric Williams. The vineyard was economic integration. West Indians were nurturing Caribbean unity from the CARIFTA seedling to the sapling of Caribbean Community.  The blossoms of CARICOM and the Treaty of Chaguaramas had actually sprouted. In this Lecture, I want to follow that inscription through the decades that have passed, asking what has come of our labours – what is the state of the vineyard?

The Eric Williams Memorial Lecture has a distinguished vintage; I am honoured and humbled to have been invited to join the list of those who have given it over the years. I thank the organisers and all those responsible for the invitation, and the Governor of the Central Bank, in particular, Mr Ewart Williams. And I am twice honoured, in giving the Lecture in this special year of the 50th Anniversary of Trinidad and Tobago’s Independence.

With Jamaica, you mark this year the first 50 years of West Indian freedom in its larger sense; and you have much of which to be proud.

Today, May 26th, also marks 46 years of the independence of Guyana whose initial Constitution I had a hand in drafting as its Attorney-General.  But there are ironies which I must share with you – and questions which I hope you will allow me to ask.

   Read complete lecture : [Labouring in the Vineyard – Sir Shridath Ramphal]

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  • Cyril Balkaran  On 05/31/2012 at 2:15 am

    It is very true to say that the Collapsed West Indian would have been celebrating its 50th year of Independence along with Trinidad and Tobago’s own Independence in August. The names of great Caribbean sons who are today considered heroes were called by S.S. Ramphal as the men who mashed up the Federation. To begin with Manley of Jamaica who hugged the USA close to his chest, others including Robinson, Adams of Barbados, Burnham of Guyana, Price of Belize. Who really wants a single governing politic body where as Eric pointed out that single decision making body will decide the fate of 13 member countries. Is Ramphal a realist of this 21st century. If it was to happen then the CARICOM secretariat in Georgetown would have made it happen. The Egomaniacs refused to allow Caricom to meet for 7 long years. How the hell will T&T alone grop along with these problems of this difficult region when politicians are not willing to cooperate today. Nothing has changed in the way Caricom does business. This is an indictment on the present crop of Caribbean leaders. The failure of a single airline in the region and the failed attempt at entering the CCJ are fine examples of how decisions are are taken at the Caribbean level. They are happy to pay $US3 billion for imports of food but they will not negotiate via Caricom the expected outcomes if the said 3 billion were to be invested in Guyana to agriculturalize some of the 83,000 sq miles of Guyanese land mass. Have you ever heard of the meetings of the CARICOM Foreign Affairs Ministers, of the Meeting of the same group of Health Ministers or Finance Ministers for that matter. Only Heads meet, wine and dine and make not a single pronouncements on anything so the whole damn thing of Caribbean Integration is an absolute falsity and an excuse by regional heads to
    shift the buck on integration issues. Many of those key players are still alive so they too can join the fray and call out for another half a century for the same Integration. I wish these things can happen in the current life time of the revered S.S Ramphal former Secty General of the Commonwealth and the man who gave Forbes the Executive Type of Constitution he wanted! Wake up everybody and call for another Referandum on the future of CARICOM this time round!

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