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West Indian time



From time immemorial, West Indian people seem to revel in lateness. No matter what the occasion, our people like to turn up after the appointed hour, and when challenged about their time-keeping, would simply dismiss their lateness as an exhibition of their West Indianism.

This lateness syndrome in the Caribbean, over the years, has entrenched itself in most, if not all of our Caribbean societies. Not to be outdone by its Caribbean neighbours, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, most organizers of public events will even try to accommodate latecomers by opting for a delayed start.{{more}} We often hear or see notices on the electronic media exhorting people to be seated by such and such a time or to “please be punctual”. Not withstanding these exhortations we see persons walking into concerts, lectures, wedding receptions etc. long after the appointed starting time.

Most times too, the fact that persons who arrive on time tend to sit at the rear of the hall. Latecomers are therefore forced to make themselves conspicuous by having to walk to the seats at the front. What is even more disturbing is that even official functions put on by successive Governments, have been hit by this malady of late starts. Sittings of the House of Assembly are usually advertised to begin at 10 a.m. Very rarely, if at all, do these meetings begin on time. But worse still, when the meetings of Parliament adjourn for one-and-a-half to two hours for lunch, they never seem to resume on time, even after this extended lunch break.

One must therefore ask, what message is our Parliamentarians sending to the rest of the Vincentian public when the highest forum in the land does not convene on time. How, in the efforts to reform our public service and private sector employees in this area, can this glaring example of entrenched lateness, by our parliamentarians, contribute to improve the bad attitude towards timeliness and punctuality? To be fair, this lateness syndrome is not evident in every private business or Government Department. Over the years, for example, the commercial banks and some other private business houses have done a very good job in ensuring proper time keeping by their employees. They must be applauded for this. However, in general, we tend to condone lateness and accepted it, if not expect it.

The 2006 Carnival celebrations have been widely acclaimed as successful, and deservedly so. Kudos were in order for the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Tourism, the Carnival Development Committee, the Police Department, the Mas’ Bands, the Calypsonians, the Soca Artistes and the Sanitation Department, to name a few. The work of the Miss Carival Beauty Pageant committee and its indefatigable chairperson, have also come in for high and special praise. However, there was one serious blotch on the 2006 Mardi Gras, and that was the very late start of the parade and judging of the bands at Victoria Park. The leaders of the Mas’ Bands and all the other people who assisted them in planning, designing, producing and marketing the bands and the costumes, must have worked tirelessly for many months to produce the colourful costumes seen at Kiddies Carnival and on Carnival Tuesday. But because the bands turned up so late for judging at Victoria Park and consequently for the street parade later in the evening, they have done a great injustice to themselves, to the judges who were invited to adjudicate at the street parade, to the patrons who turned up on time at Victoria Park to view the contest, and also to the thousands of Vincentian residents, the returning Vincentians who live abroad, visitors from ‘foreign’ and the international media who were invited to view and film the parade.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, like the vast majority of the other CARICOM member countries, is now a sovereign independent state. We cannot… must not, continue to hold onto those negative aspects of our past which would fossilize our links to our colonial past, if indeed colonialism was the root cause of this lateness syndrome.

We as a people must take pride in the progress we have made so far and try to develop an aura of professionalism to further ennoble our Caribbean civilization, and in keeping with our progression towards a 21st century modern society. We have to strive for excellence so that our country can take its rightful place amongst the more progressive nations of the world. We can and must do it.