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Thoughts on Independence

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This is a copy of a letter written in October 1978 that reflects on the issue of “Independence”. It was sent to the Editor of the Vincentian newspaper who returned it asking me to reduce the length. Unfortunately I only received it two weeks ago when the person to whom it was given handed it to me after having found it among some of his papers. I reproduce it as it was then. Please note that at the time this was written the expected date for ‘Independence’ was January 22, 1979. {{more}}

“Dear Madam,

I am forced to take issue with your editorial of Friday, October 6. I am struck by its failure to clearly analyse the independence question and to put the issue squarely before the public. Certainly support for independence does not mean blindly following and rubber stamping every move made by the Government in pursuit of that goal.

Have Vincentians been truly involved in the independence issue? In the process leading to independence? Has our Government sought to educate the populace about the meaning and responsibilities of independence? Why was radio time denied the National Independence Committee for airing a series of discussions on the subject? Why was the Chairman of the NIC given an invitation to the London Conference only hours before the delegation was due to leave and without even knowledge of the agenda? Why are there no statements on Government’s policies for an independent St.Vincent? Would there be an army for instance? Is there going to be any change in foreign policy, economic policy etc.?

These are important questions which must be asked especially when you quote Mr. Cato as saying that he went to London to represent the entire population. Has he really treated independence as something involving the whole population? You also echoed his remarks that every single memorandum was considered in ‘true democratic fashion’ and went on to state that references to nincompoops and all that were put squarely in their right perspective by what happened at Marlborough House. What really happened at Marlborough House? What constitutes ‘true democratic fashion’? The real test is to see what parts of the memoranda submitted were adopted. And moreover to know what arrangements are made for the inclusion of any popular amendments or omissions.

According to you Madam, “Vincentians will have the opportunity of looking at the constitution before it becomes law.” We do not want to look at it. We want to study it and demand the right to amend it as we think fit. Mr. Ted Rowlands noted that it might be possible to get the draft by November. Will that allow the public a chance to really examine it and suggest amendments before January 22. Your view therefore that we must ‘forget those puerile statements and turn to the matter in hand’ is a betrayal of your role for you have failed to raise the pertinent issues which really represent ‘the matter in hand’.

You also argue that “It will be time enough to act to correct injustice if the constitution betrays these ideals.” What time? Do you mean after independence or perhaps the few weeks hopefully between the release of the draft constitution and the achievement of independence. Let us not mince matters, for it should be clear to you that if in the era before ‘Independence’ Vincentians are unable to influence the kind of constitution under which they will live, there is no way short of a bloody confrontation that they are going to be allowed to do so after independence.

Madam, any objective look at the situation would reveal that the Government has treated not only the National Independence Committee but the general public as nincompoops. The Premier (I mean Prime Minister designate) was mostly silent on his government’s thinking about the constitution before he went to London except to say that what was needed was to deal with matters relating to external affairs and defence. On the eve of his departure, in typically arrogant fashion, he stated that Vincentians do not want a Republican government. How does Mr. Cato know this? He has been avoiding the public. He does not know what Vincentians have been thinking on the subject of independence. The memoranda from the NIC and other bodies, at least, have been firm in their call for a Republican Constitution.

Madam, you ought to look more carefully at the independence question and to critically examine what has happened so far. Your editorial of October 6 was a far cry from that. Is it that the pressures which have been exerted on you have begun to take their toll? The press has a vital role to play in an independent St.Vincent. You must not shy away from that role. Let me, in closing, agree with you on the need for unity, but it will happen only if the Government treats the matter as one involving the whole nation in the interest of a united approach towards a genuine independence for St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

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