US and China Caribbean diplomacy run
No Caricom alternative
Canada’s long distance lessons
60 years for the Queen
Windies’ Welsh flavour
Biden, Xi illustrate new Caribbean relations
It was a diplomacy-packed week for the Caribbean, beginning with the arrival of the US vice-president and ending with the arrival of the Chinese president.
Joe Biden overnighted in Trinidad and held meetings on 28 May with Caricom leaders (excluding Jamaica’s Portia Simpson-Miller).
Discussions centred on security and immigration, while Caricom nations also raised concerns about their dispute over US rum subsidies
, concessional financing, Caribbean deportees from the US and the internet gaming trade stalemate.
Their meeting clearly left Caricom expecting more.
Host Prime Minister and incoming Caricom chair Kamla Persad-Bissessar described the talks as, at times, “brutal”.
She takes over at the Caricom helm from Haitian President Michel Martelly, who told the Trinidad media
that he had seen the Biden discussions as an “important precursor to a summit with President [Barack] Obama”.
In an editorial on 30 May, the Trinidad Guardian summed up lessons learnt from the Biden meeting.
“Today, globalisation and free trade are the driving forces of international relations,” the newspaper said.
“In such a world, the self-interest of nation states continues to be central.
“The lesson to Caricom must therefore be that the US, like other traditionally friendly states, must be given reasons to assist small states.”
As Mr Biden left for Brazil, Trinidad then prepared for the arrival on 31 May of new Chinese President Xi Jinping.
A spokesman for the president said his visit was about enhancing and exploring relations.
President Xi’s visit to Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rico and Mexico is being matched by visits by his number two, Premier Li Keqiang, to India, Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany.
This is President Xi’s second foreign trip as Chinese leader, following visits to Russia and South Africa, Tanzania and Congo-Brazzaville.
The diplomatic flurry was aptly summed up in a Bloomberg News headline: “Biden circles Xi as US duels China for Latin America ties”.
“No longer does the United States hold all the cards in this relationship.”
And the Caricom alternative is?
St Kitts and Nevis International Trade Minister Rickey Skerritt has taken on the many critics of Caricom, pointing out that there is no alternative to the much-criticised regional grouping.
Mr Skerrit has said that the region should give Caricom an opportunity to adapt to the times.
His comments come in the wake of the most recent criticisms with discussion in Jamaica that it should give Caricom notice.
“There is no alternative to Caricom,” Mr Skerritt told St Kitts radio station Winn FM’s Ken Richards.
“Until I see what the alternative is, I really don’t see why we should be thinking about disbanding Caricom.
“I think we should continue to see how we can make Caricom more effective.”
He said he had seen a “spirit for change” when leaders last met in Haiti and the pressure for change needed to be kept up.
Canadian education online for the Caribbean
Canada is to extend its distance education programmes into remote parts of the Caribbean through the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus programme.
Through Canada’s five-year $19.6m (US$18.9m) Strengthening Distance Education in the Caribbean project, there will be increased access for the post-secondary education programmes for remote and under-served communities at up to 42 learning sites across the Caribbean.
Open campus programmes use educational resources which allow flexible learning away from college campus tuition.
“The project will support economic growth and increased employment through the development of human capital,” said Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation, Julian Fantino.
“By integrating higher education into the Caribbean, Canada is enhancing the ability of Caribbean countries to address the economic and labour market challenges they face.”
As the Queen marks 60 years on the throne, some Caribbean connections have surfaced in the British coverage.
A number of “Where are they now?” articles to mark the coronation have been catching up with the Queen’s maids of honour from the 2 June 1953 ceremony.
They included Lady Anne Coke, who later married Colin Tennant, later Lord Glenconner.
Colin Tennant had bought Mustique from the Vincentian government and spent much of his life there, while Lady Anne remained in Norfolk.
After featuring as a coronation maid of honour, she went on to be lady-in-waiting for Princess Margaret for 30-plus years.
“She [Princess Margaret] was a great friend of my husband and he gave her a plot of land in Mustique,” she told Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper.
One other 1953 note: calypsonian Young Tiger’s song I Was There (At the Coronation) has been getting something of a revival in programme trails about how the world saw the event.
The book London Is the Place for Me: Trinidadian Calypso in London chronicles Young Tiger’s own brush with royalty in the 1950s.
While appearing at London’s posh Orchid Room, the calypsonian went a little too far with his brash extempo performance and earned reprimands from the club’s management. But Prince Phillip and his party visited the Club and were treated to a little of the Young Tiger style.
Some believe this led to his composition of I Was There in 1953.
A Welsh flavour for the Windies
Welsh-born international cricket coach and current West Indies assistant coach Toby Radford has been talking to the media back home about his hopes for the West Indies’ preparation for the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions trophy.
Radford is back in Wales with the Windies, who kick off their ICC encounter in Cardiff.
His own career took him from playing as a youngster for Middlesex to becoming a coach known for turning around his clients’ careers.
Radford founded and directed the Middlesex Academy before moving on to become assistant coach to the West Indies side.
He told Wales Online this week about the developments that took him on what the online paper called his journey from Caerphilly to the Caribbean.
Modelling his batting style on Geoffrey Boycott and being scouted by Middlesex, he said he liked the idea of staying at the crease for “hours”.
“I’m not a Chris Gayle type person – I wouldn’t have lasted in Twenty20,” he said.
“As a player, I probably didn’t reach the heights I was expected to reach. I was strong at the county club, Middlesex, but it was very difficult to cement a place in the side with all the big names around you.”
Discovering his skill at coaching, Toby Radford carved out a new career direction, working for Sussex and then launching the Middlesex Academy.
“I had a passion for coaching and really enjoyed it,” he said.
“If you can’t go out and play at Lords, then the next best thing to do is train people who are playing at Lords.”
Part of that skill, he believes, is not just the technical coaching, but also working with the eager new recruits, while keeping the seasoned players happy – and getting them to work together.
His own website includes testimonials from Darren Sammy, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Adrian Barath and Eoin Morgan, as well as his photo gallery as he coaches Windies players on their technique.
His blog for the ICC Champions trophy preparations earlier this month in Barbados said: “Despite the heavy showers and humid conditions, the team has managed to make the most of the facilities available to them at the Sagicor High Performance Centre and of their time together as a squad.
“Moral and motivation remain high.”
Now in Wales, he describes the team as united and ready for the one-day.