We are at such a time, and both policies and practices are deepening Caribbean divides. ‘The knock on the door at night’ is not within our regional culture; still less are intimations of ‘ethnic cleansing’. No Caribbean leader would countenance such departures from our norms and values; but all must not only believe, but also act as if they believe, that we forget our oneness at our peril; whether the ‘otherness’ that displaces it is an accidental place of regional birth, or otherness of any kind. I say ‘accidental’ because in the Caribbean the age-old process of trans-migration has made us all family: as a great Barbadian regionalist, the Rt. Excellent Errol Barrow, reminded us twenty-three years ago – concluding in his practical common-sense way that:

” If we have sometimes failed to comprehend the essence of the regional integration movement, the truth is that thousands of ordinary Caribbean people do in fact live that reality every day. … we are a family … and this fact of regional togetherness is lived every day by ordinary West Indian men and women in their comings and goings.”

So indeed it was; and for a very long time. My great-great grandfather on my mother’s side came to Guyana from Barbados looking for land and settlement, and found them – and so it has been up and down the chain of island societies that free movement fused into one: freedom curbed ironically with the arrival of our separate ‘national’ freedoms. But the roots of those family trees are now spread out in the sub-soil of the Caribbean. Social antipathy and divisiveness deny them; but DNA’s defy even Constitutions.

” CARICOM is at risk”, we have been warned. So it is; and few are blameless. Political leaders, in particular, have to be less casual about CARICOM, less minimalist in their ambition for it, less negative in their vision of it. Its foundations have been built on our oneness; not on the geography of a dividing sea. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas is not just embellished parchment; it is the logic of that oneness in a world which threatens our separate survival. And the revised treaty is not all; there are international Conventions to which all CARICOM member states are parties that are relevant to our rights and obligations to each other as human beings, much less family. The Caribbean Community is now our regional mansion within a global home. We have to make it more secure and habitable – through reaching goals like the CSME (or even the CSM), and reaching them together.

Next month is the 20th Anniversary of the Grand Anse Resolution on Preparing the Peoples of the West Indies for the Twenty-first Century – the Resolution that established the West Indian Commission. Nearing the end of the new century’s first decade, we are still ‘preparing’. No wonder ‘CARICOM is at risk’. In the era of globalization, we retrogress if we simply mark time while the world moves ahead. As CARICOM’s political directorate meet in Georgetown next week at their XXXth Summit they must demonstrate credibly that they still believe in Caribbean integration, that they care about securing it against risk, and that they are serious in their commitment to the objectives of the Treaty of Chaguaramas. I believe the people the Caribbean yearn for that assurance from inspired leadership.

And so must we all here; for without CARICOM, without the Community, where is the Caribbean Court of Justice; where, even, are Caribbean judiciaries? The siren song of separatism lures us to self-destruction – as it once did with the federal nation we were about to be 47 years ago. The Federation – ‘The West Indies’ – (how quickly we have forgotten its name) did not founder on technical rocks; it foundered on political ones. We have now re-built pains-takingly over nearly half a century; and are again ‘about to be’ – this time an economic community. And again the siren sings seductive songs of separatism. In our collective self-interest, resistance of that enticement has become a major challenge of our time; and it is from our political directorates that the will to resist must mainly come.

The Caribbean Court of Justice, with the full jurisdiction with which it must soon be endowed, with its rich inheritance of the common law and of that international law which is the under-pinning of globalization, is for me the greatest assurance that as a Community of Caribbean people we can meet and overcome the challenges of the time.

Click here for full Address at the Inauguration of the Caribbean Association of Judiciary Officers, Port of Spain, June 25, 2009