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Minister Baptiste’s Response and Changes at the Barrouallie Park

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Last week I was the most surprised person to have received a call from the Minister of Culture. After recognising her voice my first thought was that I might have committed some national sin. The Minister had called to clarify what she considered a few distortions in my article of the previous week that was entitled “Of National Hero’s and National Hero’s Day”. The Minister indicated that what was attributed to her was never said by her and that she was following the procedure laid down for the selection of national heroes; that Joshua has not been identified as the next national hero.{{more}} The process that is set in motion is to select one individual from a number of persons who are considered worthy of national hero status. I really have no reason to think the Minister would lie on an issue like that. In fact when I realised that she had also left a message on my answering machine conveying the same message, I felt that she considered herself wronged and, therefore, informed her that I would address the issue in my next article. I must report, dear reader, that not once did the Minister threaten to sue me. Sue is, of course, a popular personality around town.

But on a serious note the article to which the Minister referred was based on and a reaction to an article that appeared in the Searchlight of March 19. It was captioned “Ebenezer Joshua up for SVG’s top honour – NATIONAL HERO NO. 2?” I went on to say that “the piece that accompanied the caption …was a strange one. I am not sure if the strangeness came from the way in which the piece was written or from the statement…from the Minister of Culture.” I then quoted from that article, “According to Minister of Culture, René Baptiste, the Prime Minister has been formally requested to convene a committee to begin the process of qualifying the former trade unionist, political leader and a champion fighter for the poor and working class people” The writer was categorical in stating that a request had been made for the process to begin to nominate ‘the former trade unionist, political leader and a champion fighter for the poor and working class people’. This was an obvious reference to Joshua whose name was included in the caption. I am not sure how the writer was able to get it so wrong. I am against the establishment of another national hero at this time, but if the process is set in motion I am prepared to make a strong case for George McIntosh.

The Centre of Barrouallie Undergoing Change

Persons from Barrouallie and others who have visited that town in recent months must have noticed that an attempt is being made to transform the centre of the town. Lance John, who is the person who appears to be leading the charge, had spoken to me briefly about their plans. It is not yet complete, but I am not sure, based on what I have seen, that they are sticking to their original plan. Meetings had been called to discuss the matter. I am not sure how well attended they were and if there was a consensus on what was to be done. It is true that for some time now a call was made for something to be done to improve that area but there appeared to be no agreement on what should be done. The area I am talking about was what has been the Barrouallie park for quite a long time. In his 1976 Anthropology thesis entitled “Stratification and Strategies:

A Study of Adaptation and Mobility in a Vincentian town”, University of California student Brian James Betley had this to say, “Barrouallie was the principal town of the French during their early 18th Century occupation of the island, but the grid pattern of the streets and the market square of the central part of the town are the only present day reminders of the original settlement”. He stated further on: “The Centre of the town is dominated by the old French market square which is now used as a playing field and public park.” This area, therefore, has some historical significance. What is being done hopefully will not erase the historical significance but there is more to it than that, and I am using myself as an example. I have for most of my life had a love relationship with the park, one that started quite early. Among my earliest memories is that of sitting in the verandah of my home looking at cricket and soccer. Edmund Joachim’s shop blocked my view of one wicket. I simply had to imagine, based on the expressions and reactions of the players if the individual at that end was out or had scored runs. Similarly in football I had to await the reaction of the players and the crowd to figure out what had happened. As I grew older and was able to move away home, I spent most of my days during the holidays and on weekends playing football and cricket. There were days when I left home just after breakfast or tea as we called it and spent the entire day on the playing field.

The playing field was, therefore, a nursery for our cricketers and footballers. At five or six years you could begin your sporting life by simply moving to the playing field that sat right in the centre of the town. There is now a bigger playing field at Keartons, and efforts are being made to construct one at Peter’s Hope. The problem is that parents even in this era of wild abandon will not allow their very young boys to wander that distance away, and they are unlikely to develop the kind of love relationship I had. This was, of course, unorganised, but that is how West Indian cricketers and footballers started. This was the nursery aspect of it, but today we might lose those children. The playing field is now divided into an upper and lower part with a fence running through it, dividing the two sections. It is left to be seen what the project finally turns out to be, but at this point there are some danger signals. One has to do with the large toilet that stands like an eye sore at one end of the field. There is near to it what appears to be some kind of platform. What might have been better was to have built a proper band stand and to make the toilet a part of that band stand. As it now stands the toilet sores above everything else. As with so much in SVG there is a political divide that colours people’s attitude to the project. In community projects, especially one that impacts on the central area of a town, every effort should be made to arrive at a consensus on matters of that nature. With development, sometimes tradition and history suffer, but every effort should be made to build on these. I am still keeping an open mind, awaiting the final project to see to what extent it positively or negatively transforms the town. Do people feel a part of it and do they have a sense of ownership? This is critical for its maintenance, whatever that it is.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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