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Our legacy at Independence



When St. Vincent and the Grenadines celebrates its 60th anniversary of Independence in the year 2039, how will the actions and attitudes of Vincentians today be viewed by our children?

In a few days time, we will celebrate 30 years as a sovereign nation and at this time, we are contemplating constitution reform because it is only natural that as time goes on, we strive to give more depth to our independence.{{more}}

The newspapers of 1979 make for interesting reading. On June 28, 1979, then Premier Milton Cato called a press conference to “bring the people up to date on the constitutional position of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the general advancement to Independence”.

He noted during the press conference that the government would be pursuing the economic development of the country. He mentioned that particular attention would be paid to Agriculture, Housing and Infrastructure, “with special reference to building a bridge over the Rabacca Dry River.”

In the same July 6, 1979, edition of the Vincentian newspaper, there was a story about the opposition parties, the PPP and the NDP, led by Ebenezer Joshua and James Mitchell, respectively, asking for a postponement of independence. Interestingly, in the letter written by Mitchell to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London, Mitchell, in obvious irritation, accuses the British government of being anxious “to be rid of your responsibility here in any fashion.”

To think that thirty years later these same sentiments are being expressed with equal passion leads us to question whether we are slaves to or masters of our history. How would we be judged by history in relation to present developments? Are our attitudes short sighted and fashioned in the interest of partisan political success or are they in the long-term interest of our country?

Is it not our responsibility to continue to shape our nation into a form that is reflective of our hybrid, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic experiences – experiences that transcend partisan interests? Or is this too much to ask?

Our civilization did not begin in 1979, when we were granted independence. Our collective experiences and wisdom did not suddenly leave. We did not go back to zero. Vibrating Scakes’ Independence anthem “Our Nation is Born” cannot be taken literally. “Born” here has to be regarded as emerging from one state to another, with the experiences of the earlier state informing and nurturing the “newly” born state.

It is, therefore, troubling to hear one of our senior statesmen saying that our 30-year existence cannot be compared with the wisdom and knowledge of the centuries old British civilization. The fact is, we, too, are beneficiaries of the experiences of those kings and bishops of Britain. Add to that the African, Asian and Calinago wisdom. We are thus uniquely placed to build on our heritage.

This is why we have oral history, memory, books and places of higher learning. No need to reinvent the wheel or make the same mistakes made by other nations in the past. What is the value of our expensively gained education if it has not equipped us to be able to recognize ourselves, know who we are and determine where we want to get to?

Our nation’s independence, like the independence of every other nation, is a work in progress. Our nation is, when compared with others, 30 years young. Let us use our youthful vitality to chart an informed course that builds on our rich legacy.

Happy Independence, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.