Current Affairs

Current Affairs




A Jamaican Voice In Caribbean And World Politics
Edited by: Delano Franklyn Reviewed by: Wesley Van Riel Publishers: Ian Randle, Kingston
Sunday, September 08, 2002

Jamaica Observer



To many persons, the recent launch of the book A Jamaican Voice in the Caribbean and World Politics may seem part and parcel of the election campaign. This inference is perhaps unavoidable. The book, edited by Delano Franklyn, is a compilation of selected speeches delivered by Prime Minister PJ Patterson to various forums during the period 1992-2000. If glowing tributes given by University of the West Indies chancellor Sir Shridath Ramphal, head of the Department of Government Stephen Vacianne and Opposition Senator Dr Oswald Harding and other dignitaries are anything to go by, the collection helps to confirm the Prime Minister's stature as a statesman of international repute.

The book sets out to document selected speeches on regional and international issues, and has already been hailed as a timely and important work, suitable to be required reading for students of International Law, International Affairs and Politics, practitioners of management, jurisprudence and government, and highly recommended reading for the general public. I would agree with these assessments, for, as many commentators have remarked, the making available the important utterances of the leaders of any nation is a very useful public service.

It is not clear whether the speeches selected represent the "best of PJ", or on what criteria the selections were made. However, in itself, the compilation presents a handy compendium of statements of policy on a range of critical issues, including global and regional developments, social development, the press, Caribbean tourism, drug enforcement, CARICOM, Caribbean Court of Justice, globalisation, international trade, and many other subjects.

The compilation is very efficiently organised into sections representing speeches delivered in various forums. This organisation makes for convenient reading, and a very good index allows for easy references.

International affairs has always been regarded as PJ Patterson's special forte. Much of the Prime Minister's early ministerial career involved leadership of Jamaica's foreign policy initiatives. From his first appointment in 1972 as Minister of Industry, Tourism and Foreign Trade to his service as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade when the PNP demitted office in 1980, his duties included: lead negotiator for the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP group) in the Lomé Convention; chairman of the Group of 77, leading ministerial delegations to GATT Ministerial meetings, ACP-EU Council meetings, the UN General Assembly and the Non-Aligned Ministerial Conferences. Since his appointment as prime minister in 1992, his international activities included representation of Jamaica at the various CARICOM heads of Government meetings, leading Jamaican delegation to the Non-Aligned Summit, and serving as chairman of the Group of 15.

In his lengthy introduction, the editor makes the point that the speeches reveal a certain consistency in Patterson's public statements on the international front. This seems to be a hint that despite the dramatic changes that have taken place on the global scene since the 70s, and the significant and well-known differences between Patterson's "conciliatory" temperament and that of his "charismatic" predecessor Michael Manley, certain features of International Policy have remained constant. It is to be expected that Patterson's rhetoric would differ radically from Manley's. It seems however, that the studied diplomacy, the measured phrasing and the polite protocol which are characteristic of Patterson's international presentations have become very appropriate in today's complex and dangerous post-Cold War world.

The speeches presented by Prime Minister Patterson are delivered in a world where a single great power holds unchallengeable sway, where economies must deal with globalisation and all its ramifications, and where small states find themselves increasingly marginalised. He speaks to, and against the background of these developments in specific as well as general terms. However, certain themes recur continually, such as:

1 The struggle for a more equitable international economic and political system

2 An awareness of the limitations of the unbridled free market

3 Support for South-South cooperation

4 A recognition of a distinct "Third World" identity

5 A commitment to regional economic integration

Patterson's speeches to the wider world reflect an acceptance of globalisation, but an insistence that the special interests of developing countries be considered. In almost all his speeches to developing country forums such as G15, as well as the United Nations, there is some reference to the theme of inequity in international trade and economic relations.

In this regard, there is no departure from the themes championed by Michael Manley in the more trenchant Third World language of the 70s. In a speech to the G15 Summit at Montego Bay, Jamaica in 1999, for example (page 483) he re-iterated themes which, in earlier decades, were staple demands of the "South" in the often acrimonious debates on the New International Economic Order (NIEO):

"The international community needs to resume its work on commodity price and earnings stabilisation, abandoned over two decades ago on the mistaken notion that unbridled market forces would take care of it all. There has been a failure to faithfully implement certain provisions of the Uruguay Round Agreements of particular concern to the export interests of developing countries. This points to the urgency of securing a more equitable, predictable and non-discriminatory institutional mechanism for international trade, one that takes special account of the constraints and interests of developing countries."

He went on to urge special attention to shaping the agenda of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to ensure "special and differential treatment" for developing countries. Later, at the 10th G15 Summit in Cairo, 2000, he returned to the theme of "fundamental imbalance" in international terms of trade and the need for change (page 494) and "South/South Cooperation".

Another theme of continuity is the attitude toward Cuba. This reflects the continuing commitment to the deeply felt, if nebulous, post-colonial identity, variously called "Third World", "developing countries", "the South" etc. In his address to the G77 Summit, Havana, 2000 (page 442), Patterson was very bold in his tribute to Cuba, and in particular to its leader, Fidel Castro. With the US embargo on that country as firm as ever, the Prime Minister stated:

" ... I pay deserving tribute to the president of our host country, to Fidel Castro, who is quintessentially of the South and indeed, my Caribbean part of it. Cuba, itself under siege, has been generous in its many programmes of co-operation with countries of the South."

He made the further point that Cuba played the decisive role in securing freedom in South Africa by its military intervention. These are words which would be seen as radical, even in the 70s. Coming from a perceived "moderate" in the post-Cold War 2000, they do suggest a certain commitment to principle.

Prime Minister Patterson of course, has always been an ardent advocate of Caribbean regionalism, having been one of the chief architects of the transformation of the Caribbean Free Trade Area and CARICOM in 1973. His many addresses to CARICOM Heads of Government and other meetings speak to the problems and aspirations of the region, and to specific developments such as the Free Trade of The Americas (FTAA).

This book should be on the shelf of any well-read Jamaican, election or no election.