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The Javorne Williams and Carlyle Dougan stories

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(This article was written on April 27th for last week’s edition)

The appearance of reigning Miss SVG, Javorne Williams on an NDP platform, doing I believe a citation for NDP candidate Dr. Linton Lewis has sparked a lot of controversy leading to a call for a boycott of the NEWS newspaper. I was prompted to write this article after reading about the suicide of a 17-year-old Belizean student at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad. {{more}}

Rischi Cummings who was described as a gifted student and a scholarship winner at that, failed his exams recently and jumped off the 5th floor of the Natural Sciences Building. The news report in the Newsday newspaper seemed to have associated the suicide with the failing of his exams. I thought immediately of the Javorne Williams story and the immense pressure that would have been brought on the young lady by the story that appeared in the NEWS and the controversy that it generated. This is in addition to the kind of pressure that a young girl just out of school would have faced at University even under normal circumstances and being involved, too, in an area of study that is obviously new to her.

Now some things need to be factored into the issue. Would an item declaring that she had failed her exams have appeared if she had not been on the platform of the opposition party? True enough she can be considered a public figure, being in possession of the Miss SVG crown. I must admit that one can question the wisdom of a reigning Queen involving herself in such a partisan political situation. But it is not the first time this has been done.

A recent holder of the same title appeared on the platform of the ruling party and I cannot remember any such cry being issued. For Benson Plaugh-Feddows to state that “It is a universally accepted norm that the academic demerits of public figures are often published” is to carry the argument to the ridiculous. He compares her situation to that of John F. Kennedy Jr. who ‘twice failed the New York Bar Exam, whilst dozens of his fellow law students who also failed remained oblivious to the public.”

Ms. Williams is no John Kennedy, nor is she attempting to hold public office nor, I believe, is she the daughter of any celebrity. She is the simple holder of the title of the Miss SVG Crown. Is it only the ‘academic demerits’ that are to be called into question? If we dig deep enough into the lives and persons of many of our public figures there might be lots to report. Do not limit it to Javone. Let us dig deep.

If it is a fact that Miss SVG failed her examinations then the News has the right to say so if it wants and would not have infringed any laws relating to libel or other related ones. But there are other concerns. As I asked before, is this only a story because the individual is the reigning Miss SVG? Had Javorne not been the holder of the Miss SVG title what would have been the focus of the story?

The NEWS emphasized the fact that she is the holder of a four-year scholarship and enquired whether she would lose her scholarship if she had to repeat her year. Javorne Williams is not the first scholarship holder to fail exams. She entered the University at Cave Hill last year and therefore would only have done her first semester examinations, why therefore are those questions being asked at this time? I started with the case of the 17-year-old Rischi Cummings because one has to understand the enormous pressure which a young student, especially in her first year faces. To add all of this controversy, particularly because she appeared on a platform to speak about a candidate she obviously knows is to bring enormous pressure on the young lady. Freedom of speech should be accompanied by some degree of responsibility especially where the reputation of young people is concerned.

I guess that some would argue that by involving herself in a partisan political situation she deserves what she is getting, but this is to look at it narrowly. University students get involved in all sorts of activities, political and otherwise. Some of them harbour radical ideas and experiment with lots of things. Recently some of them, including Vincentian students, closed down the Cave Hill campus. Why was she ridiculed in such a way? The circumstances under which the news report appeared are obviously a reaction to her appearance on the political platform.

I do not know Javorne Williams and therefore what kind of person she is, but I hope she can withstand what was meted out to her. I must repeat what I said earlier, that one could question the wisdom of her involvement in a partisan political event during the time she holds her title, but she did not deserve the kind of negative publicity she got. A news item or article questioning this would not have generated the kind of controversy that this particular story had, nor would it have had the kind of negative impact I suspect it had. She is simply the holder of a title of Carnival Queen and got her scholarship because of that. Javorne is a young girl and even if we consider her guilty of any indiscretion to make her into a political scapegoat is quite unfortunate.

Carlyle Dougan and the Spliff

Magistrate Carlyle Dougan raised a few eyebrows since the publication of a statement he was said to have made in reference to marijuana. In calling for the decriminalising of marijuana he is not alone but one has to consider the circumstances and the place where the statement was made. When Mr. Dougan states that he would not send anyone around for smoking a little spliff one imagines that he has some discretion in this for certainly as a magistrate he would have sworn to upkeep the law. I do not think it appropriate, regardless of his views to have made those statements in the Magistrate’s Court while adjudicating on a drug case.

My biggest problem with Mr. Dougan’s statement however, is his suggestion that the Government negotiates with the Netherlands to allow the exportation of marijuana there. This part of his statement confused me a bit because while looking at the exportation of marijuana as an alternative to the failing banana industry, he is asking the United States of America and other metropolitan countries to regulate the demands of their people.

I would have thought that if we were serious about exporting marijuana we would welcome an increase in the demand for the product. In any event, however, the argument falls on its face because the legitimate exportation of marijuana would bring other producers on to the market. And we have to bear in mind that there are others with the quantity and type of lands that would outclass ours. It would then be an open market and it would be the banana story again. No one in St.Vincent, much less the economy, would benefit from that enterprise.

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