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Let patience guide us

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20.MAR.09

This paper has always been supportive of the idea of a National Heroes’ Day and commemoration of the achievements of heroic Vincentians. We welcomed the approach of the ULP administration in this regard, right from its earliest moments, as an important advance in the decolonization process. Similarly, the earlier efforts at arriving at some national consensus on the criteria on the basis of which such a revered status could be bestowed met with our blessing.{{more}}

Thus far, the country has been able to officially declare one National Hero, the Right Excellency Paramount Chief Chatoyer. Not without some unhealthy, though muted, skepticism in some quarters. Living as we do, in a westernized environment, with the colonial hangovers of concepts of dress, behaviour and mores, there are those among us who still have difficulty accepting the image of a scantily-clad warrior as our National Hero. We have not yet been able to firmly erase the negative connotations which colonial rulers associated with the Callinago people.

To be fair, not enough has been done to correct the negative stereotypes and lack of understanding of our historical forebears. Even those who romantically uphold Chatoyer sometimes themselves fall victim to the false images. While we have come a long way since Independence, much, much more is still undone. Our task of “re-imaging” is still unfulfilled.

Nevertheless, we have agreed on Chatoyer as our first venture into acclaiming national heroes. Other names have been mooted, and the debate still rages, if not as intensively as in the past. This year, the government, in the persons of Prime Minister Gonsalves and his indefatigable Culture Minister Rene Baptiste, has indicated that as far as the Government is concerned, it is time to end the debate. From their statements on National Heroes’ Day, the current administration seems about to elevate other outstanding Vincentians to the pedestal reserved for National Heroes. The merits of George McIntosh, Ebenezer Joshua and Milton Cato, all largely in the political field, have been lauded.

All three would certainly be in contention, and one can understand the feelings of their proponents at the apparent hesitation in making that move. But the reality is that the debate is still unresolved, especially where the cases of the latter two are concerned and there is some mix of local politics in it. Additionally, there are those who legitimately question whether the achievements of other Vincentians in other, non -political fields, are being left out of the equation.

For our part, we urge patience in the matter. Our government may be “chomping at the bit” to extend the pool of National Heroes, but we ask in turn, what danger is there is waiting a bit more, in deepening and enriching the debate and discussion? Certainly less than in moving forward to declare National Heroes without the unreserved support of the vast majority of our nation. The status is too sacred to run that risk. Let patience be our guide.

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