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Still looking for Chatoyer

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Fri, Mar 30. 2012

One of the ways in which a country is judged is the way in which it honours its citizens, especially those who have made outstanding contributions to the country.

When a national hero is named, that person should engender a sense of pride and respect from the majority of people, both within and without St. Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

When Chatoyer was named national hero ten years ago, his choice was almost unanimous, though there was muted, skepticism in some quarters, mainly those still suffering from the vestiges of colonial hangovers in relation to concepts of dress, behaviour and mores.

The actions of naming a National Hero and declaring March 14 National Heroes’ Day, while dispensing with Discovery Day (January 22 ), indeed consititute a significant steps towards ridding ourselves of the vestiges of colonialism.

But apart from a relatively small but significant gathering at the Obelisk at Dorsetshire Hill to commemorate the day, what have we really done to remind our youth of the significance of Chatoyer’s contribution? And how many of our young people are given the opportunity to take part in the Dorsetshire Hill celebrations?

Other than some paintings at the National Public Library, where on the national landscape can one find a monument in the image of Chatoyer? Our children are more aware of the images of cartoon characters and foreign pop stars than they are of our First National Hero.

The teaching of local and Caribbean History should be mandatory in our schools system, right up to fifth form, as our people cannot be expected to make meaningful decisions in the national interest without a good sense of their history.

The rush to name more national heroes at this time must, therefore, be carefully reconsidered. Some of the persons being considered were too recently among us, and making an objective, unbiased assessment of their contribution would be difficult.

Before taking the next step, let us fully educate our people on the significance of a National Hero and bring Chatoyer to life in our communities. Let his image and spirit dwell among us.

We ask again, as we did three years ago when the issue of naming of additional national heroes was first raised: What danger is there is waiting a bit more, in deepening and enriching the debate and discussion?

Certainly less danger 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.

There are far more urgent issues, pertaining to the economy, crime, unemployment, violence against women, health services, the environment, which should preoccupy us at this time, rather than to be pursuing the naming of another hero, when our people, especially our youth, are still looking for Chatoyer.

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