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Bad week for SVG

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It has been a testing week for St Vincent and the Grenadines. It started last Saturday with the debacle in Brooklyn, New York, where Prime Minister Gonsalves was addressing Vincentians there, following his attendance at the

2016 General Assembly of the United Nations. The Midweek edition of SEARCHLIGHT this Tuesday described the Brooklyn gathering as a “ruckus” – hardly a flattering advertisement for our country.{{more}}

The “ruckus” was caused by a woman making allegations of “inappropriate conduct” against the Prime Minister. This apparently caused an uproar and the meeting “deteriorated into chaos”.

This is not the first time that the Prime Minister has faced allegations of inappropriate conduct and given his position and standing, they cannot be lightly dismissed. Whether there is

basis for them or they are part of a huge smear campaign are matters which demand attention, but that is not our focus here. Our worry is the damage to our country’s reputation. Increasingly our divisive partisan political battles are being aired in the international arena. We are washing our dirty linen at international standpipes.

Normally, migrants in any city or country try to band together under their national cloak. This by no means suggests that there are no political differences, but the overriding concern is the image and welfare of the homeland. On the other hand, it must not be a cover under which our leaders can hide, for their position of leadership increases their responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner as not to harm the country.

These town hall meetings, in New York in particular, are becoming seriously contentious affairs, with supporters of both major political parties seemingly hell-bent on embarrassing those who come to address them, rather than engaging in enlightened discourse about the progress and development of our country. We at home here, prompted by the political prodders in the media, eagerly await reports, salivating over whether “dey nearly drown out Arnhim”, or “dey give Ralph good”.

How do such approaches help or advance our country? How do non-nationals, hearing of our squalid squabbles, view our country and its people? We need to take stock and as I-Pa has sung, “Put our country before our party”.

The same partisan in-fighting has seeped into all areas of national life. We were confronted with a storm this week and, initially, there appeared to be some lack of clarity in the official responses. Immediately, taking advantage of the social media, a set of public criticism was launched which, intended or not, could only undermine the credibility and integrity of the one institution which has the responsibility for leading the national response to disasters, NEMO. I have heard persons encouraging others not to “bother with them”, meaning NEMO and the state-owned radio station NBC. How does that help?

We need to take stock as a people and nation on the verge of our 37th anniversary of independence. How do we fit our political and personal choices in the context of national priorities? Can we preserve our cherished right to freedom of expression while exercising it in a way which is not detrimental to the interests of our country and people as a whole? At age 37, it is time for some maturity, on the part of our leaders, and on our own part.

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