An Opinion From the Jamaica Observer, July 24, 2011
THE Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), after prolonged delay, have finally selected a new secretary general for the regional grouping in Mr Irwin LaRocque, a 56-year-old civil servant from Dominica where he served in several ministries.
Mr LaRocque is no stranger to Caricom, having served since 2005 as assistant secretary-general for trade and integration in the Guyana-based Secretariat.
We extend to him our heartiest congratulations and wish him a successful tenure as he assumes office at a very difficult time in the history of the regional movement.
Yet, despite the inevitable flurry of perfunctory letters of congratulations, we are, sure Mr LaRocque is fully aware that his honeymoon, if it can be called that, will be shortlived. His first task will be to gain the confidence of the political leadership and senior officials of the region. What nobody has said openly is that in the leadership of the region there is widespread concern ranging from disappointment to resignation.
The problem originates from a selection process which is felt not to have canvassed the best talent that the Caribbean has available to it. The identification of the candidates for the post of SG should have involved more of a “head hunting approach” than simply interviewing a selection of those who applied.
The prolonged selection process involving the vacillation of the Heads indicated that they had no genuine enthusiasm for any of the candidates. There was even speculation of drafting in the outgoing president of Guyana. Their reluctance was evident to all.
It was felt throughout the Caricom states that the Secretariat was desperately in need of restructuring, reorganisation and re-staffing, and that the best way to accomplish such a drastic change was to bring to the post of SG, a person not associated with the current Secretariat. This is a wise dictum of management when an institution is not performing well in contrast to when an institution has a solid record of performance, where continuity is best. For example, the recent change of president at the Caribbean Development Bank.
It was widely felt that recruiting from inside the Caricom Secretariat was unlikely to produce someone with fresh thinking and seized with the need for radical reform. We sincerely hope that Mr LaRocque’s tenure will not mean that it will be business as usual.
If the region is to accomplish the goals of integration, such as completing the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and the creation of a new governance structure in this difficult global economic environment, then it certainly cannot be same-old, same-old at the Caricom Secretariat.
As in the case of Darren Sammy, we may not agree with the selectors but we must work with what we have and rally round the West Indies cricket team. So we must all rally round Secretary General LaRocque and the Caricom Secretariat. While we can tolerate the frustration of an underperforming West Indies cricket team, the region must have an outstanding Secretariat if Caricom is to survive and thrive.
Let doubt not be excuse for passivity but make it the motivation for involvement in the cause of Caricom. To this end we pledge our full support.