Remarks by Hon. Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda - 9/22/04


Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda


Inter-American Economic Council
2nd Annual Congressional Dinner with the Caribbean Community

Washington, DC - Sep 22, 2004

- Colleague Heads of Caribbean Governments;
- Honourable Foreign Ministers;
- Esteemed Members of the United States Congress;
- Distinguished Guests;
- Ladies and Gentlemen:

I wish to thank my hosts for the splendid dinner.

I am grateful for this chance to press flesh with members of the Caribbean Caucus of the United States Congress.

I am grateful for this opportunity to discuss the wide range of ties that bind the Caribbean and the United States with some of the movers and shakers on Capitol.

As the Head of a Government elected just six months ago, I am a rank rookie among the seasoned legislators in this gathering.

Tomorrow marks the completion of six months since the political organisation that I have the honour to lead, the United Progressive Party, was elected to govern Antigua and Barbuda.

My party's election on the 23rd of March, this year, ended the rule of a universally known family dynasty that had ruled Antigua and Barbuda for fully 28 unbroken years for an aggregate of fifty odd years.

The United Progressive Party was swept into office with more than 55 percent of the popular vote and with an overwhelming majority of the seats in parliament.

These results were delivered by a voter turnout of more than 91 percent.

Let me repeat that voter turnout number.

Voter turnout in the elections in Antigua and Barbuda last March was over 90 percent.

To my knowledge, only Bermuda and The Bahamas have recorded higher voter involvement in elections in the Americas.

It is significant that my government was elected on a platform of good governance.

We have kept faith with our electorate.

We have anti-corruption legislation in Parliament.

We are about to table Freedom of Information legislation in parliament.

We are framing Equal Opportunity legislation.

At a Retreat last Saturday, members of Cabinet and other government parliamentarians adopted a stringent Code of Ethics which will be laid in parliament.

With all of this, it is easy to understand why the entire country, including Opposition spokespersons, in and out of parliament, is now repeating the mantra, "Government in the Sunshine".

That was our campaign slogan and it is, in fact, a mission statement of my Government.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
On becoming Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, I immediately found myself Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community.

I was thus promptly immersed in regional affairs.

In that arena, the ties that bind the Caribbean and the United States of America are never far from top of mind.

However, I have found that legislators and public officials tend to limit discussion of the ties that bind the Caribbean islands to the US landmass mainly to economic affairs.

I submit that relations between the Caribbean and the United States ought to be set in a wider context.

The Caribbean provided strategically placed military bases to the United States in World War 11.

The Caribbean provides millions of loyal consumers living above their means in buying US brands.

The Caribbean has turned over much of its most valuable natural assets, its unparalleled and highly prized beachfronts, to US entrepreneurs for little more than the proverbial song.

We have surrendered our finest minds to academia in the United States to help shape some of America's finest minds.

The yield from Caribbean tourism revenue goes as much to the US as it does to Caribbean economies.

The NBA and the NFL mean more to Caribbean youth than any indigenous entity.

US television and movies are an enormous influence - not entirely positive - in shaping attitudes among Caribbean youth.

Caribbean nations are staunch allies of the United States in intercepting narcotics intended for distribution in metropolitan America.

Caribbean countries have long been significant contributors to the economy and to what is now called Homeland Security in the United States.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
I invoke all of this to make a case for the United States to review its perspective on the countries of the Caribbean.

We are all aware of US military interventions in the Caribbean.

The United States has intervened in Haiti, more than once.

The United States has intervened in Grenada.

It is time for another US intervention in the Caribbean.

More that 600 persons have just died Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Jeanne.

Scores of people have just died in Grenada in the wake of Hurricane Ivan.

Grenada is in now in the condition of Iraq immediately after the bombardment earlier this year.

Against this backdrop, I urge members of the Caribbean Caucus to transition to a Caribbean Coalition whose influence could be used to leverage immediate US intervention in those Caribbean countries devastated by recent hurricanes.

None are more utterly devastated than Haiti and Grenada.

These two Caribbean countries are certifiably disaster areas.

An adequate response from the United States to the plight of these two disaster areas would be a quantum leap to recovery and reconstruction for Grenada and Haiti and the best option to ease the suffering of the battered and distressed people of those two countries.

Members of Congress:
If this petition triggers an intervention on behalf Grenada and Haiti, the Caribbean Caucus of the United States Congress would have served particularly worthy, and particularly urgent, causes.

Such an intervention would remind the world of what America stands for.

I thank you.

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