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My Dear Jomo

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With one swoop of the pen I was downgraded from being balanced and measured in my comments (See article of September 10 – “Dr. Fraser, Kamara Rose and One Love Bassy are for the most part balanced and measured in their comments.”) to that of one who carries a brief for the NDP. Well really we need to examine who carries briefs. In fact, we do not have to go that far since Jomo states exactly where he stands. I have no problem with his position since he is quite honest and forthright about it, and in any event it is his right to do so. {{more}}

He has stated unambiguously that the central task facing progressives and those interested in the development of the country is to ensure that Ralph and his administration are returned to office. That is the mission of the progressives. That is their brief. I guess it really depends on which brief you are accused of carrying. This tendency of mine either to hold a brief for the NDP or to have an axe to grind against the other I am told surfaced in the run up to the last election and is happening again as we move into the home stretch. I am one hell of a man, for it would appear that I only take briefs at election time but am otherwise balanced and measured in my comments. This seems to follow logically but maybe I am wrong, not having been trained in this brief thing.

While Jomo states that, “The ULP must refrain from putting a political label on persons simply because they happen to hold a different point of view,” he is not removed from doing so. Well, it might be news for him that I have no brief for the NDP. I have never asked them for a personal favour and never intend to do so.

In 1990, a few months after the end of the first term of office of the NDP which Jomo credits with some good, Dr. John said the following: “Truth is that Bassy has gained Skinny’s anti-PM fan club in having a go at the man for tea, breakfast and dinner.”

He continued, “My latest rap with Bassy concerned Mitchell’s foreign policy speech. He begged to differ on Adrian on that one, as he likes it.”

I responded the following week, June 15, 1990 – “There is a tendency in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to put people into slots and to ascribe certain behaviour to them based on their placement in those slots. …So the fact that I have, through this column, taken issue with some views and actions of Prime Minister Mitchell gives me ownership of some anti-Mitchell club… But why shouldn’t I differ with the Prime Minister and say so? …I do not assume that my views are necessarily the correct ones or rather, always the correct ones. They are mine nevertheless and I am entitled to them… Really I do not have a political constituency to which I have to give account, so I can afford to be uncompromising on a number of issues, acting from my own view of reality.”

I am quite sure Jomo would accept that “The more things change the more they remain the same.” My article of January 7 seemed to have touched a raw nerve in Jomo’s body. An apology is really in order. When I spoke about “a conspiracy of silence” I had indeed painted a very broad brush. I could understand the reaction. One of the constant themes in Jomo’s articles is the role of the progressives.

As far as I can remember, he has never defined progressive. I don’t know if it is that it is a word so simple and well understood that there is no need for definition. But, surprisingly, only a few persons were put under that label – Oscar, Kamara, Otto Sam, Caspar London and of course, Jomo. I would have assumed that this grouping was much larger. Maybe I was wrong.

Incidentally the fact that in Grenada there was a revolutionary overthrow by force of arms while in St. Vincent and the Grenadines we have a government with an overwhelming mandate does not detract from my point about the conspiracy of silence. I am also struck by what appears to be an effort to link me with the progressive stream, but my horns are being examined to see if I fit into the progressive billing. I have never attached labels to myself and hope that people see me not as some figure with a label on it but would assess me based on what I say and do. I am also flattered that I seem important enough to have an entire article dedicated to me! Wow!

In fairness to Jomo it cannot be said that he is guilty of any conspiracy of silence. Maybe the brush was really too broad and I truly apologize for it. He has been one of the foremost critics of governance within the ULP administration. But it is okay for Jomo to be a critic, for the more critical and devastating his comments appear to be, the more he blows the trumpet for the administration.

Examine this, and he speaks here about the PM: “Like all of us he has his faults and too many of them are magnified. His ego is too large, he takes himself too seriously, he is too dismissive of criticism, whether it is from friend or foe and he is making the fatal error of surrounding himself with persons who, because of their commitment to personal advancement, are unwilling or unable to tell the comrade the truth when he needs to hear it most … but even so he remains the most progressive politician.”

I have never written anything as scathing about the PM or his administration, but I am believed to have an axe to grind. I am said to loathe PM Gonsalves’ rise to power, but some of the same criticisms Jomo has of our Prime Minister are ones I share. I agree fully that one needs “to speak truth to power”. My crime is to have directed it to the progressives.

I wonder, sometimes, if Jomo believes what he writes. Listen to Jomo: The ULP “must refrain from seeing the country as only NDP and ULP … It must avoid the temptation to exile the views and personnel of presumed opponents.” “…We need some more politicians and citizens who will look leaders in their eyes and tell them the truth.” Much of the old remains the same, “Governance is largely characterized by the us against them mentality, dissenting voices not necessarily allied with the opposition are too often viewed with suspicion and the government continues to pander to the greed and demands of the more privileged in society at the expense of the toiling masses.”

I guess all of this is only allowed to persons who, after their criticisms, make it absolutely clear where they stand in the political arena and are prepared to distance themselves from anything that has to do with the NDP. Jomo also has a problem with my role in the Candy Edward’s programme. I am accused of remaining silent while middle finger awards were handed out to Neal, Sister, Kingsley and Prophet Glyn.

In fact, I seem to have done more. I stabbed them in their back, a mysterious position indeed, since they normally call in and spout steady anti-government mantra, something I should obviously welcome. I was, indeed, amazed that they bothered to respond to Candy for the truth is that Candy often blows hot and cold. He is quite capable of coming back and showering praise on the same people he had previously criticized. They should simply have dismissed Candy’s references and go on to make their contribution. On his day Candy would criticize anyone, as one can see with his position on E.G. Lynch. (To Be Continued)

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