“I begin my tenure as secretary general, with no illusions about the journey before me. While I pledge to do my best to justify the trust and belief that the heads of government have placed in me, I acknowledge that I cannot do all that I want to do; indeed, all that I must do, alone.
“The entire community must make this journey with me. I cannot make the strides we have to, without the total involvement of member states and the people of the region,” said La Rocque, 56, who takes over from the Trinidadian Sir Edwin Carrington, who resigned after 18 years in the post.
But as he began his first full day in office, La Rocque said he was heartened by the various congratulatory message he had been receiving since his appointment was made public last month.
“In airports across the region and further afield, strangers walked up to me and expressed their views about the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME); about the movement of people in our community, the treatment meted out to them at points of entry and the perceived difficulty of travelling throughout our region, about the need for jobs, about crime, about cricket, about the Caricom Secretariat, and many other issues of concern to the citizens of our Caribbean Community.”
La Rocque said that while there was cynicism in some cases, a common thread in almost all of these messages and encounters was a commitment and belief in the 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 said, noting that he was assuming the post at a time when the Caribbean is still feeling the effects of the recent global financial and economic crisis and the possibility that the world may be slipping back into another recession.
La Rocque said that the regional governments had mandated a review of the Caricom Secretariat which will be concluded within a few months and that he was “eagerly awaiting” the outcome of that review as well as the review of other regional institutions.
“The message from all quarters is loud and clear ‘it cannot be business as usual’ and I take these words to apply not just to the Caricom Secretariat but to all aspects of our integration, including member states and regional institutions.
“There is a general view out there that all things Caricom, rightly or wrongly, are the purview of the Caricom Secretariat. That 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.”