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Of Presidential state visits and General Elections

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EDITOR: Whatever else is true of party politics, and, by extension, of governance in SVG, upfront must be the fact that “there is no new thing under the sun.” Then if, as acclaimed, SVG is now blessed with its best-ever clairvoyant and ingenious government so do Vincentians endure their fullest bounty of triumphalism.

SVG has long been wallowing in glory as being perhaps the staunchest ally of Taiwan and, as if to crown it all, the silver anniversary of the relationship was marked by the State Visit to SVG by President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan on September 28, 2005. {{more}}

In true form, the Government of SVG went full measure to make the red carpet occasion one of the most memorable in the nation’s history. There was what may be termed a people’s welcome ceremony at the airport: cultural performances, addresses by the Governor General and by the Prime Minister of SVG – all raucously applauded by thousands of compliant Vincentians – and, last but not least, there was President Chen who it is reported “will be remembered for his charisma and humorous demeanour.”

Naturally, the centerpiece was the Prime Minister’s rapturous embrace and welcome of his “friend and brother”.

Some time in the past Vincentians were accused of having “breadfruit mentality” and no doubt politicians have grown to take them for granted. In this light, it is worth recalling that H.E. The President of Zambia, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda paid a visit to SVG on May 29 – 31, 1989. Whatever else may be relevant, sight should not be lost of the fact that General Elections held on May 16, 1989 were handsomely won by the New Democractic Party over the St. Vincent Labour Party and, therefore, it may be reasonable to conclude that the State Visit was little more than an occasion for show-off celebrations.

The State Visit of President Chen cannot and should not be naively regarded as being that innocuous because Vincentians wherever they are in the world know that the campaign for the next General Elections in SVG is in gear and revving.

If those gathered at Arnos Vale and others listening worldwide were so trusting as to overlook the central theme of the occasion, then President Chen’s charisma and humour did not permit him to digress. He is reported in the media as clearly stating, “This almost feels like an election campaign” and to add the icing he said, “so perhaps in 2008 when I’m no longer President of Republic of China on Taiwan may be I come here and run for election”.

That a visiting Head of State should be so flagrantly impolitic in his interference in the domestic affairs of an independent sovereign State is nothing short of reprehensible. Perhaps the only mitigatory view would be that the indiscretion of the host in extending an inappropriately timed invitation was obligingly compounded by the contempt of the Guest of Honour.

As potato is staple to some and rice is to others so it may be acceptable that breadfruit is a staple to Vincentians, but there is yet no authority on which to conclude that a staple adversely impacts on the mentality and on the capacity for intelligent thought. Driven by a sense of absolute equality and self-worth, Vincentians of the ULP, NDP, and the Green Party or of

whatever other political party affiliation should find dignity in defending SVG against intrusion by friend or foe.

Clement W. Iton

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