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Our Independence a plus not a minus

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Many times in the calculation of one’s successes it is important to factor the views of the onlooker for what they are worth. In our context of independence it may just be interesting to find out the thinking of the authorities in Britain.

I have chosen to begin this week’s article with an excerpt from a most recent address “A Successful Future” delivered on 24th April 2006 in the Turks and Cacios by Lord Triesman where he noted:

“The economies of most of the territories (referring to British dependant territories) are flourishing. Four of them – Bermuda, Cayman, the British Virgin Islands, and the Falkland Islands – report per capita GDPs greater than that of the UK… Unlike many independent countries in the region, the territories are not suffering from crippling levels of debt.” {{more}}

Those are the sentiments of the British Minister with responsibilities for the Overseas Territories at Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). What make you of such?

The response by the Chief Minister of Turks and Cacios Islands Michael Misick four days later may also provide for interesting reading. Being very adamant about his party’s stance on the issue of independence he declared:

“I would like to categorically say it’s my party’s position not to seek independence at this time. It is also my party’s position that independence will not be a part of our platform in the upcoming general elections”.

“We came to office on a platform of change, on a platform to modernize our constitution and the relationship between the United Kingdom Government and the Turks & Caicos people.”

Those are the respectful views of the Chief Minister of the Turks and Cacios Islands.

In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, however, the situation is starkly different, for October 27th 2006 will mark twenty-seven years since our national independence, truly a historical milestone. In our communities, it is around this time that our nation’s citizens would reflect on their experiences in an attempt to make a comparison between the pre-independence years and the present. I however do not have such a luxury, since I was born over a year after my nation achieved its independence. Nevertheless, in many aspects of our lives, experiences usually have their ways of meeting us even when it appears that we would have missed them.

Some five months after the Chief Minister of the Turks and Cacios responded to the address made by Lord Triesman in the way he did, I had the opportunity of visiting the Turks and Cacios Islands, and I need admit that we as a people must cherish our political independence and sovereignty with a greater degree of respect. Whilst the conclusion may be safely drawn that the majority of our youths who would not have experienced the reality of the two worlds will never be able to fully appreciate the tangibility of the present achievements of independence over our past dependency, we cannot be blamed.

The bold step towards independence is not a concept for the weak in heart who may still insist on the negative, and may attempt to intimate that our independence may have been prematurely obtained. However, if one is to always view life from the spectacles of a pessimist then such ideas may be well relished.

Dr. Eric Williams writing on the “Future of the Caribbean”, which is cited in the final chapter of his book “Columbus to Castro”, had this to say on the issue of dependency:

“Dependence on the outside world in the Caribbean in 1969 is not only economic. It is cultural, institutional, intellectual and psychological… And the greater degree of dependence further reduces local self-confidence.”

If we are to use Dr. Williams’ observation in 1969 as a yardstick, then how far have we come as a nation? I maintain that the achievement of our political independence must accurately be understood within the context of an evolutionary framework and not one that was revolutionary. It is left to the politics of the day to cement and formalize the independence achieved in 1979, in its economic, political and social dimensions. The question must therefore be asked, have we been able to harness the fruits of the labour of our past nation builders?

Although we may be very critical of the excerpt taken from Lord Triesman’s address quoted earlier, and rightfully so, his interpretation of the role of good governance merits quotation, and will certainly find resonance in the mind of any true nation builder. Lord Triesman noted:

“… Our shared goal of good governance entails an impartial enforcement of the rule of law; an independent judiciary free from any external influence; an impartial and effective police force; and a public service free from political interference in its appointments, discipline and dismissals, which implements policy in accordance with the rule of law and internationally accepted standards.

Good governance also means transparency in decision-making according to defined rules. Government institutions and the legislature, as well as private sector organizations, must be accountable to the people. Governmental institutions must be subject to checks and balances. Civil society, including a strong independent media and representative NGOs, play a key role in this. The public should feel that they have a stake in, and access to, Government, and that services and benefits are available to all on an equal, objective basis.

In summary, good governance means ensuring that the resources of a society are used to the best and most durable effect; and to the benefit of the greatest number of the population. What I have described is a counsel of perfection, which few, if any, societies in the world, including the UK, can claim to meet all the time.”

We have come a long way since October 27th 1979. There is no doubt that in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines we are successfully pressing towards the mark as it relates to good governance. Much of our future success will be dependant on the forthrightness of our leaders and the entire citizenry to consciously maintain the structures which serve our system, and to make the necessary amends when such becomes necessary.

As we approach Independence Day, we must take time off to remember those who would have assisted greatly in securing such a monumental achievement and those who continue the legacy. We must further consider our many shortcomings as a people and use these as lessons for the future. I wish the nation a blessed independence.

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