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NDP to make all Garifuna honorary citizens – Eustace

NDP to make all Garifuna  honorary citizens – Eustace

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Immediately upon assuming office, a New Democratic Party (NDP) administration will make all Garifuna in the diaspora honorary citizens of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

Leader of the Opposition and President of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Arnhim Eustace made the declaration on Sunday night, as he addressed a Town Hall meeting at the Friends of Crown Heights Centre in Brooklyn, New York.{{more}}

Eustace said he has given much thought to the matter and the granting of honorary citizenship to the estimated 700,000 Garifuna now in the diaspora, is “just the first step.”

He said in recent times, as he has deepened his knowledge of the Garifuna, he has become more and more convinced that SVG cannot ignore or take the Garifuna for granted.

“We must address it.”

The NDP president said he finds the story of the Garifuna to be a remarkable one.

“But they are from St Vincent. That is the fundamental issue. They are from St Vincent and they having gone to Honduras, also went to other countries in that area, Belize and so forth, and a number of them are here in the United States, some 400,000 or so. For me, they are our natural diaspora. That is how I see it. I believe that this a remarkable story.

“I declare here tonight that having won, I will take the first step by making all the Garifuna honorary citizens of St Vincent and the Grenadines!” he declared.

Eustace said over time, in consultation with the Garifuna, the programme to bring them closer to SVG will be refined, once the NDP is voted into office.

He also dismissed those who expressed doubts about the programme.

“…I heard an individual who heard us talking about Garifuna and his attitude was if we do anything for them, it will become a drain on our economy. There is an old saying, where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise.

“I will say this,… While we reach out to the Garifuna today, it could turn out that they make the most marvellous contribution to the development of St Vincent and the Grenadines economy.”

Eustace said with the Garifuna population being far greater than the population of SVG and that of Vincentians in the United States, “there is no way that they can pull us down; they can only build us up!”

He mentioned with the rapprochement in the relationship between Cuba and the United States, there have been fears that when the Cuban tourism market opens up to the United States, it will wipe out the Caribbean tourism market.

“Well, the Garifuna can be tourist too, 700,000 of them, and where they will come first? St Vincent and the Grenadines!” Eustace declared.

“We have to come to the stage where we look at the Garifuna in that light, and also as persons doing business in SVG with assistance from us, which will help our economy to grow and at the same time goods that are produced in SVG and they living elsewhere, they might buy… also these are within the realm of possibility.

“So when I hear those statements, I let them pass, they are based in the realm of idiocy. So, tonight I say to the Garifuna, welcome home. We have stated our position tonight and we will stand by it.”

In 1797, after national hero Joseph Chatoyer was killed during a battle with the British, approximately 5,000 Black Caribs were banished to the inhospitable island of Baliceaux off the coast of St Vincent, where many died. Those who survived were exiled to Roatan island off the coast of Honduras. From there, the people who descended from the Black Caribs moved to other countries, taking with them what is now known as the Garifuna culture.

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