CSME facing a rising tide.

First Published: 2005-06-19

The opposition to The Bahamas joining the CSME by signing the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (the treaty) is rising like the tide.

The Nassau Institute, among other concerned citizen's and groups, have raised numerous questions, but what is most interesting is what role CSME Committees like the Conference of the Heads of Government, the Council for Finance & Planning, the Communities Legal Affairs Committee and the Committee of Central Bank Governors will play, and what wriggle room, if any, The Bahamas will have when negotiating at these meetings.

A couple examples.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs denies that much will change, but in response to the Institutes "29 Questions" he spends a lot of time noting that the above CSME committees will be making decisions on our behalf, and that they do actually exist in the treaty. Not only that, he denies we will be required to change our laws in one breath and goes on to state that we will have to "harmonize" our laws with those of other Member states. For the record, the Oxford dictionary says that to harmonize is to "make consistent". Presumably this means The Bahamas will have to change its laws to make them consistent with what CSME directs?

In fact, the "Right of Establishment" concerns recently taken up by the Minister, were only brought to the forefront after the Government circulated a draft Bill from the CARICOM region regarding pharmacists from that area being allowed to open businesses here, and suggesting that Bahamian pharmacists would have to return to college. Yet all along, we have been told there is nothing to worry about.

Even our admittedly tongue in cheek question about whose flag would fly on top here at home, the CSME or The Bahamas, was met with an adamant response at a meeting in Abaco that "there is no CSME flag". Yet here is the Minister's response to that question in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs web site:

"While there is a CARICOM flag, it is purely symbolic because CARICOM is not a political union. The CARICOM flag does not have the same international recognition as a symbol of sovereignty as the flag of The Bahamas, or any other State in CARICOM, has. Since 1983, when The Bahamas became a member of CARICOM the nation's flag has never been relegated to an inferior or secondary position to the non-political CARICOM flag. Hence, there is no reason to believe that, once the nation signs the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, this would change. Finally, nothing in the Revised Treaty calls for nations to relegate their national flags to a position secondary to the non-political CARICOM flag."

So we have gone from there is no flag, to the fact that there is a flag. Therefore, who knows what the Conference of the Heads of Government, the Council for Finance & Planning, the Communities Legal Affairs Committee and the Committee of Central Bank Governors have in store for The Bahamas. Particularly when these groups meet in private without being accountable to the electorate.

There are many other examples that have been raised in other forums where the Governments responses have been somewhat less than transparent.

Working toward the unspoken goal

Mr. Mitchell's ever changing position on the specifics of the treaty are reminiscent of the denials in the book by Christopher Booker and Richard North titled The Great Deception – The Secret History of the European Union.

"…Their archetypal response was outlined by The Times in the summer of 2003, analysing Britain's response to the proposed constitution:

'It is at first denied that any radical new plan exists; it is then conceded that it exists but ministers swear blind that it is not even on the political agenda; it is then noted that it might well be on the agenda but it is not a serious proposition; it is later conceded that it is a serious proposition, but that it will never be implemented; after that it is acknowledged that it will be implemented but in such a diluted form that it could make no difference to the lives of ordinary people; and at some point it is finally recognised that it has made such a difference, but is was always known that it would and voters were told so from the outset.'

While this relates to the EU, we remain confident that this is the model being followed in the region and this is backed up by recent calls from leaders in the region for more political clout to make the treaty work.

The rising tide of debate is confirming the Government's boat is full of holes and sinking fast. Their comments appear to be no more than a charade. We recommend life vests.

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