By Bert Wilkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News
Three key issues will attract the attention of Caribbean trade bloc leaders when they meet for three days at one of their two most important annual summits in Barbados starting Thursday.
Officials are uncertain which of the three—the current move by the Dominican Republic to expel people of Haitian ancestry who were born in the Dominican Republic, simply because of their skin color, demands for reparations from European slave-trading nations or efforts by Venezuela to claim a large part of neighboring Guyana’s oil- and gas-rich offshore territory—will attract more debate.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be among the dignitaries headed to Bridgetown this week. He is expected to hear the views of leaders at least on the border row and the Haiti-Dominican issue, officials said.
A slew of newly and re-elected leaders is expected to speak at the opening ceremony before presidents and prime ministers get down to the main agenda items. Among them are two retired senior military regional figures who are now elected civilian presidents, David Granger of Guyana and Desi Bouterse of Suriname, who was a month ago granted a second five-year term by voters.
In early May, Granger’s multiracial coalition defeated an Indo-led government that had run Guyana for 23 consecutive years. Also scheduled to speak are new leaders Timothy Harris of St. Kitts and Donaldson Romeo of Montserrat.
Host Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said leaders will move to flesh out and refine the position of the bloc as it relates to their demands for cash and other payment forms from European nations that participated in the slave trade, which reportedly killed approximately 2 to 5 million people of African descent.
“This is not a diplomacy of protest. It is a diplomacy of engagement because most of those countries are now our friends, and who better to discuss issues like this than friends?” Stuart said as the regional reparations committee prepares to brief heads of government.
Normally, leaders merely rehash their annual support for Guyana as a recurring agenda item in the dispute with Venezuela, but Granger told reporters that the summit has now elevated it to a main agenda item. The same appears to be true for fellow bloc member Belize in its perennial row with Guatemala.
Granger said that Guyana will be asking the United Nations to intervene in the dispute “so as to identify a way forward.” Granger and other leaders have a scheduled formal meeting with Ban scheduled for Thursday.
In Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the plan is for a full review of relations in the wake of announced plans for the mass deportation of dark-skinned Dominicans born in that country who have not met new immigration and documentation requirements, which the bloc has called preposterous.