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Garifuna leader says he would be foolish not to be part of the political game

Garifuna leader says he would be foolish not to be part of the political game

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A member of the Garifuna delegation that is currently visiting St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) to discuss honorary citizenship for those in the diaspora has said that while he has lost respect for the Prime Minister, he is not trying to influence people as to how they should vote in the next general elections.{{more}}

Last Wednesday, July 29, Wellington Ramos — vice president of the United Garifuna Association — made a presentation on the issue at a press conference held by the New Democratic Party (NDP) at its headquarters.

Ramos said that Garifuna people are “free thinkers” and don’t allow others to coerce or walk over them.

“We, the Garifuna people, when it comes to St Vincent, we are going to talk to all the political parties… we don’t support one political party; it’s a load of nonsense,” he pointed out.

Ramos referred to viewing a video of the Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves discussing the honorary citizenship matter and becoming so “angry and disgusted” that he lost “all respect for him right there and then.”

He added: “Any time you start to question people’s actions against you or you question your rights, you get labelled as a troublemaker!”

Ramos also pointed out that in the constitutions of most countries around the world, politicians are elected to “serve the people” and are in those leadership roles at the people’s mercy.

“You put them there, and you can remove them anytime!” he said. “They think that people are fools.”

Ramos claimed that the Government is trying to make persons believe that if honorary citizenship is granted, those in the Garifuna diaspora will return to St Vincent to steal locals’ houses and jobs — which he asserts is not true.

“The Garifuna people in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize have more than enough land. We have so much land that we don’t know what to do with it, that today the government of those countries are trying to take away our lands from us.”

Additionally, Ramos said that granting honorary citizenship not only benefits the Garinagu, but also benefits Vincentian citizens, because the multi-island state would attract visits from those in the Garifuna diaspora.

During his presentation, Ramos was often moved to tears when he spoke of the atrocities carried out by Europeans against the Garifuna population centuries ago.

He also spoke about the ‘divide and conquer’ tactics that Europeans used to conquer St Vincent and the Grenadines and other islands in the Caribbean – warning that Vincentians must get rid of these tactics in order to move forward and progress.

“Within out midst, we have some of those people, because of their own self greed, who play into that… In our culture, if you do anything to harm the Garifuna people who are your own people, your day is going to come real soon!”

Ramos acknowledged that the current government has been communicating with persons within the Garifuna Diaspora, but dismissed said persons as having “no substance”.

“As a people we must re-unify and connect together as one for us to change our economic, social, political situation.”

Ramos further criticised the government, asserting that it made promises to the Garifuna people 14 years ago, and has not lived up to them.

“It is important to heal wounds. Anybody in their right mind who wants to see a family remain fragmented, separated is not a good person…”

The United Garifuna Association vice-president also spoke about hearing that members of the Unity Labour Party have been referring to the proposed honorary citizenship for Garinagu in the Diaspora as a political move.

“Everything in life is politics; there is nothing that doesn’t have politics in it!” he insisted. “If you don’t become part of the game, you drown… I would be foolish not to be a part of the game.”

Ramos also expressed that the government’s current approach of seeking reparations for slavery and genocide of indigenous persons should be changed — with the two being pursued separately.

He explained that the Garifuna people were never slaves, therefore, it should not be lumped together with the genocide of St Vincent’s indigenous population in colonial times.

“It’s not that we don’t care about slavery, but the people who were enslaved, that is their issue — not our issue. Please, don’t bring that slavery to us,” he asserted.

Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace also gave brief opening remarks, during which he referred to the survival of some of the Garinagu after being exiled to Balliceaux as a “remarkable feat”.

Eustace also lauded their descendants in North and Central America for having retained most elements of the Garifuna culture. (JSV)

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