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Trouble in paradise! What is happening to our Caribbean civilisation?

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The Caribbean has always been promoted as a ‘paradise’. Recently, SVG seems to be promoting itself as a liming spot, whatever that means. What is funny about the paradise bit is that it is far from being a reality to the many Vincentians living here. Even some Vincentians who have had to leave these shores to seek their fortunes overseas have fallen into the trap and speak of a paradise. Is that mythical paradise now being destroyed?{{more}}

The bit about ‘liming’ sounds more accurate, although I am not sure that is the best way of promoting ourselves. When I first went to Canada, I realised that many Canadians saw us as happy-go-lucky people, who spend a lot of time doing limbo and singing calypsos. As students, we were often invited to do limbo dances, which we knew little about and to sing songs like ‘Yellow Bird’. Now the reality is setting in. Some of the tourists are now beginning to see a different side of the Caribbean. Some of our people living abroad who had dreams of coming back to settle in this earthly paradise are now having second thoughts. Crime is, of course, a big thing in the areas where they live, but in our small societies one or two murders mean a lot more.

Look at the last ten days–three homicides, including one resulting from a confrontation between brothers, another over a cigarette and the other a victim who happened to be at the right place at the wrong time. Lance John, a former national and Windward Islands cricketer, being robbed by masked men at his office in the morning and apparently escaping death only because the gun jammed; one man, while he slept, receiving severe burns from the contents of a container of acid, hot water, oil and pepper sauce being thrown on him. Then, there was that angry cop who appeared to have vented his frustration on what might have been an empty ATM. The Searchlight of August 2 had as its headline, “She tried to poison us.” What is going on? Is it sheer frustration? Is it loss of hope? Is it poverty? Whatever the reason, we have to ensure that it does not spill over into the political realm.

The St Kitts Dimension

Recent developments there have spawned concerns not only about the state of CARICOM, but also about our ‘Caribbean civilisation.’ As I write, the frightening political developments have been greeted with deafening silence by the CARICOM heads. What is happening there is a replay, granted with a difference, of what had happened recently in Grenada. The Opposition Peoples’ Action Movement has since December tabled a vote of ‘No Confidence’ against the government of Denzil Douglas, which the Speaker has not seen fit to have discussed. This has been facilitated by the failure of the Governent to call a meeting of Parliament since then.

of the arguments we hear being pushed by defenders of the ruling regime is that the Constitution does not give a time-frame within which such motions of ‘no confidence’ are to be discussed. This, of course, is pure hogwash. Our countries’ constitutions have been an outgrowth of the British system where conventions are of vital importance. Throughout the Commonwealth it is generally recognised that motions of ‘no confidence’ should take priority over the normal business of Parliament. Over the past few months, protests and demonstrations have become part of the political landscape there. Videos posted on Youtube have brought home to us the seriousness of the situation. In fact, had it not been for the numbers, we could easily have mistaken the scenes for what was happening in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East.

It is my fear that this could easily get out of hand. It has to be remembered that St Kitts was the first of the Eastern Caribbean colonies to have been involved in the disturbances of the 1930s. Theirs happened in January 1935, followed by SVG in October. It is also of note that these two countries have recently held public protests and demonstrations. In the meantime, the Prime Minister of St Kitts is hoping to buy some time by gerrymandering the constituency boundaries. So the St Kitts situation is a mess, but what are the messages being sent to the rest of the Caribbean? Why are our leaders so silent at a time when they claim to be moving toward a single economic space? The signals being sent are certainly not good at a time when the region faces an increase in crime and criminal activity. So what are our leaders about? Have they become irrelevant, spending their time more on oppressing the people they have been put to serve and defending the members of the Big Boys’ Club while things are collapsing around them?

Outside of this they are doing what they do best, talking, but fewer and fewer people believe them. Some of them are so consumed with the power they wield that the thought of losing it is driving them crazy and creating irrational behaviour. It is my hope that we can turn things around, but our leaders have first to purge themselves and admit that they are on the wrong path. But they are a strange bunch that seems not to be aware of their deficiencies and of the mess over which they are presiding.

What does the future hold? It seems certain that we will have to move beyond our present crop of leaders, but they have so demoralised and traumatised our people that it is going to take a hell of a turnaround to set things on the right path.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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