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Taking issue with my friend Saboto Caesar

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11.SEP.09

Editor: Saboto Caesar and I have corresponded in the past and I regard him as a friend. Yet I must take issue with what he wrote in Searchlight of August 28th.

When he says that we have waited almost 300 years for independence, this puts us on par with Barbados and Jamaica.{{more}} Yet, both countries had been colonies of Britain almost 150 years, during which time St. Vincent remained one of the last truly independent territories in the Caribbean. Barbados was colonised in 1627, but Britain started its occupation of St. Vincent in 1763 and did not consolidate it until the end of the Garifuna war of 1795-96. The period between 1763 and 1795 may be viewed either as a period of partial occupation by the British, or as the last 33 years of independence of the indigenous people. The whole island was a colony for 184 years. Computation on any other basis denies the intense struggle, especially by the Garifuna, to maintain their independence.

Then he says that the fight during the colonial era for independence was not an easy one. It was easy. Not a drop of blood was spilt. The greatest hurdle was infighting among rival Vincy politicians, while Britain waited anxiously to pass the baton to a stable Vincy government. As he said, we received a document – the constitution we have – which was not drafted with the peculiarities of our people in mind – Britain’s last gift as it were. Had we struggled we would have written our own.

In his closing paragraphs, he confuses the need for constitutional reform with the mechanics of getting it. Voting “Yes” for the package is not the same as defining the constitution you want. Yes, you want some of what is offered, but No, not everything that is on offer is what you want.

I think civic groups should petition the Prime Minister to refer a decision on the package to an arbitration tribunal selected by the Governor General. This tribunal should be comprised of those in civil society (not politicians), regardless of how they feel about the package, and their mandate should be, through compromise, to define its final parameters. This should then go to legal draftsmen for necessary language changes. Give them another year to get it right.

C B Harold
cbharold@cwjamaica.com

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