17 August 2011

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque Assumes Office

Press release 315/2011

(16 August 2011)

Secretary-General LaRocque pledges to fuel hope in regional integration

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) Under “no illusions” about the task ahead of him, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, new Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on Monday morning assumed office, pledging to fuel hope, encouraging the entire Community to journey with him, and underlining the need for the improvement of efficiency and effectiveness of the CARICOM Secretariat.

Secretary-General LaRocque took over the mantle of leadership with a “mix of excitement and awe given the challenges of the moment”, and with a charge by the Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas, Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM and Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, to be bold, creative, visionary, and provide astute supervision for the work of the Community.

Clad in slate grey suit, crisp white shirt and blue tie, Ambassador LaRocque began his tenure as Secretary-General with a symbolic event at the CARICOM Secretariat Headquarters at Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, which was linked via videoconferencing with the Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM and Permanent Representatives of Member States to the United Nations in New York; Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite, Deputy Secretary-General and staff members in Barbados; and other staff members of CARICOM in Jamaica. The audience in Georgetown included Ambassador Colin Granderson, Assistant Secretary-General, Foreign and Community Relations and other Members of Staff of the Secretariat Headquarters, Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan, Ambassador of Suriname to CARICOM and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Guyana, the Honourable Sir Shridath Ramphal, OCC, and representatives of the media.

In his remarks Secretary-General LaRocque said that since his selection on 21 July 20211, he had received numerous messages of congratulations as well as opinions on the progress of regional integration and issues affecting the populace. While acknowledging that there was a measure of cynicism in some cases, a common thread in almost all of the messages and encounters was “a commitment and belief in our integration movement, as well as hope for change. “

“This in itself has been a most sobering but encouraging experience. It is that hope which, as Secretary-General, I will strive to fuel,” he told his audience.

Rallying the Community to the cause of integration, the Secretary-General also signaled that he intended to prioritise public education and communication to ensure the people of the Region were more informed of the benefits that could be derived from integration.

With regard to the implementation of decisions taken at the regional level, into which the CARICOM Chairman urged the new Secretary-General to inject some momentum, Ambassador LaRocque said it would be his duty to create the dialogue that would seek to find solutions to constraints which were inhibiting the advancement of integration in a timely manner. He said this against the background of acknowledgement of technical and political constraints that could not be easily ignored or overcome.

“We ought not to take a purely technical or theoretical approach to integration, or think that the solution lies simply with `political will’. We must consider the politics of integration; and as one politician said to me that `all politics is national’, the politics of integration must be put squarely on the national agenda,” he said.

As he saluted staff members of the CARICOM Secretariat “who have displayed an unwavering commitment to improving our Community”, the Secretary-General called for the improvement of efficiency and effectiveness, and the delivery of mandates with the primary goal of positively impacting the lives of the people of the Community.

But he cautioned that a critical element in going forward had to be a clear understanding that under the current conditions, “the Secretariat can no longer be all things to all persons if we are to be more effective. We must be focused and adequately resourced, if we are to play the role envisaged by our Heads of Government.

Referred to the ongoing review of the CARICOM Secretariat and the mandated review of the regional institutions, the Secretary-General said that the architecture and governance of out integration arrangements had to be reformed if the Secretariat were to more effective and accountable in the discharge of duties and functions.

It could not be business as usual, he said, referring to the general view that all things CARICOM were the purview of the CARICOM Secretariat.

“This is not necessarily the case; but if it is determined that this is how it should be, then the requisite reforms must be undertaken. There cannot be responsibility without authority,” he pointed out.

His message to members of the media, as a key stakeholder in integration, was that they use their communication skills to strengthen and build confidence amongst the people of the Region.

Following toasts to his good health, Secretary-General LaRocque later mingled with staff members and special guests before paying courtesy calls on the Honourable Samuel Hinds, Acting President of the Republic of Guyana, and Honourable Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guyana.

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