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Patterson urges stronger ties in African diaspora  

The present system of economic and political power on the global stage is inequitable and was not designed for people of African descent to be among its primary beneficiaries, former Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson has opined.

As such, it is incumbent that those who are a part of the diaspora work more closely for their mutual benefit, said Patterson, who delivered this message at the opening ceremony of the international conference of the Grand Boulé, which attracted hundreds of members of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity at Atlantis resort.

In an interview with The Nassau Guardian on the sidelines of that event on Saturday, Patterson added, “Our ancestral ties are with Africa and we share a common history of colonial exploitation.

“The prevailing system was a creation of those who were the victors in World War II and who were at that time our colonial masters in both the Caribbean and Africa, so we were never present nor did we participate in the creation of the global institutions which now exist.

“We have been reminded recently by the global pandemic that no matter our ethnicity, no matter our religious creed or beliefs, no matter our political systems, there is one planet on which all mankind must live and it is obvious that the present system is inequitable, it’s unjust and it’s in urgent need of reform, including, but not confined to, the United Nations and its agencies.

“And particularly, the operations of the Security Council where the victorious powers carve for themselves a special position in the Security Council, which is charged with the responsibility of maintaining peace and avoiding conflicts in the world, each of which is vested with a veto power, so that the whole world is subject first of all to the fact that the Security Council is impotent to deal with a situation such as exists between Russia and Ukraine, no matter what the United Nations General Assembly says.”

Patterson added, “It is also the case that economic relations are determined by the Bretton Woods institutions, the IMF and the World Bank. We were not part of that design.

“So, what many of us have been contending, successive leaders in the Caribbean, and still being pursued by the present group of leaders, is the right as sovereign countries to be present at the negotiating table as we fashion a new economic structure capable of dealing with the problems as well as the political conflicts which arise.”

As part of this effort, the University of the West Indies appointed the former Jamaican prime minister to lead the P. J. Patterson Africa-Caribbean Institute for Public Advocacy.

Patterson said, “We wanted to be people based, that is to say concentrating on areas of cultural activities such as entertainment and sports, and, of course, there will be academic exchanges and student exchanges between the people of Africa and the people of the Caribbean. That’s our purpose.”

The COVID-19 pandemic slowed the work of the institute, but Patterson said it also dramatized the need for the work undertaken.

Patterson, who suffered a serious accident at his home in 2019, traveled for the first time since then to attend the Boulé convention at the Paradise Island resort, recognizing the important opportunity it presented to promote the work of the institute.

The Boulé is the oldest continuously existing Greek-letter fraternity originally founded by, and primarily for, eminent American Black professional men and later similar professional men of African descent throughout the African diaspora. 

Speaking of the Africa-Caribbean Institute’s focus, Patterson said, “You may ask how does this link into the Boulé conference. The answer is rather simple.

“Africa has always regarded us as the sixth region and I was appointed by the African Union as a trustee of the African Union Foundation and we have to recognize that virtually all people of color on this side of the Atlantic owe their ancestry directly to Africa.

“The Boulé group brings together overwhelming aggregation of skills, and I dare say some economic weight, so we want them to know that they can participate in investment opportunities which occur.

“They can also operate in consultancy work that has to be undertaken and this 56th assembly is focusing on the requirements of a changing world, and we see that change unfolding before our very eyes from day to day; we have to pool our resources to get our just, fair share.”

Patterson said people in the Caribbean have been blessed abundantly by nature but the price they pay is that they are extremely vulnerable.

“We could disappear off the face of the globe if the industrialized countries, which are largely responsible for global warming, don’t recognize that, for us, it’s not a matter of choice,” he said.

“We have a compelling obligation to immerse ourselves in creating arrangements that will enable humankind to survive [because] we in the Caribbean could virtually disappear by the warming of our oceans.

“I really don’t have to emphasize particularly in The Bahamas how vulnerable we are. The prime minister (Philip Davis) mentioned that nearly 50 percent of your external debt has to do with dealing with problems of climate change.”

The Bahamas is approaching the third anniversary of Hurricane Dorian, which obliterated parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama in 2019, resulting in deaths and others still missing.

“It’s not a matter of academic interest for us,” Patterson said of climate change.

“It’s a matter of life and death.” 

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Candia Dames

Candia Dames is the executive editor of The Nassau Guardian.

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