By Vernon Daley, Staff Reporter
Oliver Clarke (left), president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), responds to a question during yesterday's academic conference at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies. With him are Professor Ivelaw Griffith (centre), Associate Professor of Political Science at Florida International University, and Professor Trevor Munroe, Professor of Government and Politics, UWI, Mona. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer
OLIVER CLARKE yesterday caused a stir at the University of the West Indies, Mona, when he urged the institution to put its best minds to the improvement and better management of the future rather than focusing on slavery and colonialism.
Mr. Clarke also questioned the marrying of the creation of a Caribbean trade court to the setting up of a final appeal court for the region.
Speaking at an academic conference at the campus, Mr. Clarke pointed out that of some 220 books listed in the University Press directory of books (1992-2002), the most popular subjects covered were "colonialism" and "slavery".
"There are precious few publications that look at the future," Mr. Clarke said, referring to the booklist. "The UWI's focus appears to be on the historical development of our region and not its future."
Mr. Clarke, who had indicated that he was speaking personally and not on behalf of the Private Sector Organisation (PSOJ) of which he is president, or The Gleaner Co. Ltd., where he serves as chairman and managing director, said, "Just as the other types of leadership of the region need a revolutionary change in terms of focus and effectiveness, so does the UWI.
"(The year) 2002 demands that you put your best minds on to the improvement and better management of our future," Mr. Clarke said. "It demands that your future graduates be trained to make the Caribbean the fastest-growing economic area of the world. Your dependence on government funding and your natural loyalty to alumni Prime Ministers or not should not allow you to be uncritical of mediocre performance in national-regional governance." He added that a revolutionary change was needed in the approach of the UWI to looking at issues touching on national development.
A few members of the gathering in the Social Science Lecture Theatre could be seen shaking their heads as Mr. Clarke spoke.
In seeking to rebut Mr. Clarke's argument, in the question-and-answer session that followed, Professor Sir Roy Augier, UWI teacher and administrator, suggested that the publications listed in the University Press catalogue were only a portion of the UWI's academic output and did not represent the breadth of the institution's scholarship.
Governments in the region also came in for Mr. Clarke's attention. He criticised them for selling the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as a critical component of the Single Market.
"Clearly a Caribbean trade court will be needed when the Single Market is realised. But the Caribbean appeal court has nothing to do with the Single Market," he said "The marriage is simply one of political convenience, if not deliberate confusion."
The CCJ, which is set to come into being by mid-2003, will be made up of two tiers. One layer of the court will deal with trade disputes arising in the Single Market and an appeal jurisdiction which will replace the United Kingdom Privy Council, which now operates as the final appeal court for most Caribbean countries.
Some critics of the court have argued that it will be used as a vehicle for crime-ridden Caribbean islands to carry out hangings.
In his address, Mr. Clarke also referred to what he said was the failure of regional leaders to fully explain the relevance of the Single Market to the people of the Caribbean.
The PSOJ president added that the interest of the people of the region was faltering in relation to regional integration, recommending that the CARICOM Secretariat be removed from Guyana. "Reconsider the location of the CCS," he urged. "It is difficult to run a regional integration movement from Guyana. It is difficult to recruit outside staff and communications are difficult."
Mr. Clarke also repeated his call for the introduction of legislation that gives protection to the press when it reproduces libellous material from overseas news suppliers.