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Challenges of the times


Dr. E.G. King

Before I deal with the issue that I want to address in my column this week I have to offer a brief tribute to Dr. Errol King, someone I considered a friend. EG as he was commonly known last phoned me about ten days before his death. He enquired about the date of UWI graduation in Jamaica since he wanted to go back and re-establish contact with the Faculty of Medicine. He even indicated that he had a donation to make to them. I realised then that at the time of graduation a conference hosted by the Faculty of Medicine was to be held.{{more}} He was extremely pleased about this. He also enquired about the revival of the alumni body which I had been working on and urged me to proceed quickly and to call on him for any assistance needed. That was the last I heard from him.

EG was in his last year or years of secondary school when I entered the Grammar School. I remembered him as a sportsman, a high jumper mainly and a footballer, for after all we were members of School House which I happened to captain in cricket and football. I next saw EG in Barbados where he was then completing his medical degree and actually spent two days with him while on my way to studies in Canada. When I got back to St.Vincent in 1986 after my second stint in Canada EG was getting ready to move back to the United States of America. I remembered buying his desk which I still use in my study.

On my frequent visits to New York I was always in touch with EG, or rather he was in touch with me. I never knew how this happened but on at least four occasions not too long after my arrival, in fact within a couple hours I got phone calls from EG. I was not sure how he knew I was there but I was filled in with the latest information about the activities of Vincentians in New York – where was the latest liming spot, who was doing what and where it was possible to buy newspapers from the Caribbean. It was on one of these occasions that I introduced him to an uncle of mine, Norris Quow. EG became a regular visitor to Norris’ bookstore and in fact when Norris died did a tribute to him. He also collaborated with Norris in publishing the Trial of George McIntosh that was taken from the Port-of-Spain Gazette and edited by Ralph Gonsalves.

EG as he did with many other Vincentians, made fairly regular Sunday morning calls. Sometimes I was never sure if these calls were coming from St.Vincent or New York. If ever there was a patriot EG was one. His love for St.Vincent and for the St. Vincent Grammar School was never in doubt. He tried to collect as much information as he could about his alma mater and about some of its outstanding graduates and personalities. He was fond of regaling you with information about them during their time at school. EG in one of his phone calls gave me a history of the Penn State games and about the dominance of Jamaican athletes and the role of Mikey Olliverre. He wanted to make a point about St. Vincent. He even sent me a programme to strengthen his point. With EG’s passing St. Vincent lost not only one of its more academically brilliant sons but also one who was totally committed to the country.

Challenges of the Times

It is virtually impossible to live in St.Vincent and the Grenadines and not be aware of the challenging times. You hear, see it and feel it all the time, all around and throughout the length and breadth of the country. These difficult times are shaped by both external and internal factors and of course, these are not unique to this country. But our ability to cope with these challenges and the nature of the challenges has very much to do with the internal dynamics of the country. There are many positions one can take in reflecting on these but my approach is to focus on the issue of governance.

Ours is a small, poor country operating in a world where the playing field is not level and where every other country is caught up in furthering its own interests. There is no godfather and it is survival of the fittest. In the global environment that exists the external pressures are severe and the institutions that shape the policies that define the age have been dominated by and in fact been created to serve the interests of the bigger and more powerful countries. Our survival depends on how cohesive we are internally, on the resources at our disposal and what relationships we are able to develop with those who find themselves in the same position we are in. The machinations of the WTO and other international institutions, financial or otherwise have served to recreate interest in south to south dialogue. Although the south is not a homogenous grouping the roles played in recent years by Brazil, China and India at gatherings of the World Trade Organisation must have pointed to a recognition of the importance of furthering south- south dialogue.

Within this framework the times call for a different approach to governance especially since we are going to be asked increasingly to make sacrifices. A different arrangement will have to be shaped between those being governed and those we elect to govern us. The answers to many of our problems do not lie in the craniums of any small group of individuals but in the minds and energies of the collective.

Our response will have to be one calling on the resources of all of our people. The relationships will have to be different. There are many contradictions that face us as we travel on the road to development. Our values are being shaped by outside forces. The lifestyle for which we crave and the expectations we have clearly do not match our resources. Development moreover does not equal economic development.

Development is holistic involving different aspects of life and consequently different players. It cannot divorce itself from the culture that will drive it and inform its path. Our parliamentary system of government functions in a winner takes all fashion. This will have to change if we seriously plan to involve civil society in this endeavour. Our constitutional reforms must not only serve to dot the i’s and cross the t’s but must fashion a new approach. Without this our efforts will be futile.

We should not see our many challenges in isolation. The internal arrangements we build will determine the nature of our difficulties and how we respond to them. These are new times that demand new approaches. Oh! if only our leaders will realise this before it is too late.