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The right to be different


Over the last two weeks, both conventional and social media came alive with a story which captivated the attention of many and placed one man and his family under deep scrutiny. The man at the centre of the many coloured stories, formed via investigation or via suspicion, was taken into custody by police and brought to mainland St Vincent from Bequia in handcuffs, an experience which the gentleman claims was like living in a nightmare, since, as he claimed, he had done nothing wrong.

Information gathered by SEARCHLIGHT, which interviewed both the father and police officials, was that he had been picked up based on a report that he had kidnapped his family. To date, there has been no information coming from either the police or local social services to corroborate the suspicion of any crime having been committed against anyone on Bequia, or against the family of the man who suffered the indignity of being transported publicly in handcuffs, in front of his children. Even the Bridgetown-based United States Embassy was called into the issue, as the Vincentian-born father is also a US citizen, as are his spouse and children.

It does appear thus far, that what was at play here was concern being directed at a family that chose to live in an unconventional manner. We are a society that at times can be very judgemental and exercises very little patience with persons who choose not to follow established convention. Living in a tent in the midst of an upper income neighbourhood is certain to rub some persons the wrong way and it would seem it did to the point where it resulted in his being taken into custody and separated from his family.

The suspect/father/victim, had purchased the lands and as he tells it, he aspired to invest in his native land in a tourism enterprise based around a campsite. This is something that has not been tried here thus far in our tourism industry, which caters mostly to the upper crust, but is a novel idea which functions in other parts of the world. Was this gentleman on to something which may be ideally suited to our climes? Or is there more?

Interestingly, during interviews with SEARCHLIGHT, the gentleman was full of praise for the investigating officers in Bequia and at the Central Police Station. This is rather unusual, as one has gotten so accustomed to hearing only reports of uncouth behaviour by our lawmen toward suspects. We have learnt that officials have not found any reason to keep the man and his family apart and that they have been reunited. If there is one lesson to be learnt here, is that one should not jump to conclusions and that we must be more careful when faced with persons who live differently.