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It becomes necessary at times to break one’s silence

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Fri, Aug 17, 2012

Editor: The following four articles which appeared in the press recently have forced me to come out of hibernation, namely:

1. MONSTERS IN PARLIAMENT – BY CASPAR LONDON (THE NEWS 03/08/2012)

2. EMANCIPATION DESERVES MUCH MORE RESPECT – BY RENWICK ROSE (SEARCHLIGHT 07/08/2012)

3. NEVER FORGET, NEVER AGAIN – BY JOMO THOMAS (THE VINCENTIAN 10/08/2012)

4. UWI EXPANDING (THE VINCENTIAN 10/08/2012)

MONSTERS IN PARLIAMENT

It grieves me that 174 years after the abolition of slavery, Caspar London, a known black-power advocate, social and political commentator and activist for more than four decades, is referring to the members of the Opposition, who are all black people, as MONSTERS and ASSES.{{more}} To add insult to injury, this article appeared in the press on the 3rd of August, two days after the celebration of a national holiday in the month of the celebration of the abolition of slavery.

Caspar, among other ramblings, wrote: “Perhaps these political monsters just had to present their version of Gamal ‘Skinny Fabulous’ Doyle’s Monster soca hit for Carnival 2012, so they came to Parliament that day decked out in their monster garb, like asses in lions’ skins wanting to frighten the Honourable Speaker out of his wits.”

Distressing as it is, many argue that Caspar is only the tenant and that he may have sublet his tenancy. Readers of his column know too well the occupant, who is neither black nor of African descent nor has a history of slavery.

EMANCIPATION DESERVES MUCH MORE RESPECT

Renwick Rose, in lamenting the lack of consciousness among Vincentian black people, wrote: “Nowhere can we truly say that the descendants of slaves seem to value richly their own emancipation. In a world where information is a mere fingertip away, consciousness seems to be light-years distant…. In this regard, I must commend our own Prime Minister Gonsalves for his comprehensive statement to mark the anniversary of emancipation. What is even more commendable is that the statement was tabled in Parliament, our highest legislative body, on the eve of the anniversary. Not many of our Prime Ministers are of this mold, neither those of today nor yesterday. The Ministry of Education now has the duty to ensure that this document is fully utilized in all educational establishments and that it becomes compulsory reading.”

Renwick Rose is commending Prime Minister Gonsalves for his “comprehensive” statement to mark the anniversary of the abolition of slavery. What a paradox! I have heard Renwick Rose and many of his ilk on several occasions condemn the Englishman for giving us ‘his’ story of slavery and emancipation, the same ‘story books’ from which Gonsalves and Rose were educated. What archeological findings has Gonsalves come up with that are new to anyone? Is this not a classical example of slamming the Englishman because he is not within sight, but genuflecting before the white man that is standing before you? Many black Vincentians have written and published pages and pages, including the same Renwick Rose, Dr Kenneth John and Oscar Allen, but there has never been a call, from Renwick for such material to reach our schools. Dr Adrian Fraser has written and produced virtually tons of such materials, plus regular radio programmes and panel discussions. What are you saying Renwick, that the work of the black brothers pales before your eyes as it relates to that of the great Massa of SOLIDARITY INC.?

Renwick is not condemnatory of Caspar; he is commending Prime Minister Gonsalves for not re-hiring the three black teachers, a total violation of the SVGTU Collective Agreement. Among the proceedings in Parliament on the day in which they were referred to as “monsters and asses”, they were simply asking when is the Government going to honour its commitment to re-hire the three teachers.

NEVER FORGET, NEVER AGAIN

Jomo, among other things, wrote: “When emancipation legally came in 1834, it was the British planters who were rewarded by the British Parliament with close to 600,000 pounds. Estimates are that this payment is about 120 million pounds in today’s dollars. Those who were enslaved and made to work for free, those beaten and raped and killed are yet awaiting compensation for their labour. Herein lies the basis for the call for reparation … Imagine what our country could do with 120,000,000 pounds!”

The call for reparation has long been coming, but I often make the comment: Reparation, yes; but to what purpose? If it is to be put into the hands of a few as is so obvious under this ULP administration, then let’s forget it. Guyana proudly boasts of a Cultural Centre which was built with reparation money given to the Government of Guyana by the Indian Government as compensation for the Indians who were sent to Guyana as indentured servants. It stands out in Guyana as an historic edifice.

In 2007, the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines was given US$250,000, to celebrate the commemoration of the 200th year of the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. A committee was formed to celebrate the event. The committee comprised Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, a Portuguese, as Chairman, René Baptiste and Renwick Rose, among others. An event was planned for Heritage Square, which was rained out. To date, no account has been given in regard to the spending of that US$250,000. What is most amazing to me is that money was given for and on behalf of black people, but the committee had to be headed by a Portuguese. Not even a ‘river stone’ was put up somewhere as a symbol of the event. Yet all the black ‘progressives’ remain mum.

UWI EXPANDING

THE VINCENTIAN of 10/08/2012 under the above caption states: “The University of the West indies is not easing up on its effort to establish a stronger presence in the Eastern Caribbean …. Vice Chancellor of UWI Professor Nigel Harris and Prime Minister of Grenada Tillman Thomas signed a document formalizing the grant of some 88 acres to the university, for a new campus.”

Grenada has a well established Medical College. The College also offers fulltime Bachelor’s programmes in various subject areas. International students attend the University. Grenada also has several community colleges under the name T.A. MARRYSHOW COMMUNITY COLLEGE. Yet, UWI has seen the wisdom and the advantage to put a campus in Grenada. Think of the social and economic advantages this has for Grenada.

Grenada is leaps ahead of us. We have one little Community College and we have a Prime Minister who behaves as though that that is the best thing to come on earth since Christ. I argued for many years without support, that Belleisle was perhaps the only remaining place we had in St Vincent for a University site, but the visionary Ralph is not only happy that he has caused the St George’s branch of the university to leave St Vincent, but he has turned Belleisle into the country’s graveyard, socially, mentally and physically, by taking 100 acres of pristine land and turning it into a prison and a garbage dump.

CONCLUSION

Reparation monies have been given to this country and continue to be given by Britain and its European allies, Canada and the US, but too many of us, especially among the ‘progressives’, fail to recognize that. A classical example is the land on which now stands the BUCCAMA PROJECT. That was a grant by the French Government. That land was distributed to Vincentian black brothers for the purpose of farming. The modern day Massa, Ralph Gonsalves, has compulsorily taken that land away and put it back into the hands of the white Europeans, who have now turned the area into a virtual Apartheid system.

The following excerpts from SEARCHLIGHT will support my argument.

1. BUCCAMA FARMERS SINGING THE BLUES (SEARCHLIGHT 17/02/2006)

“On Valentine’s day, fiery emotions and frank expressions were evident at Buccama…it was a heated discussion between 10 farmers … and a committee from NIPI … The contentious issue that sparked the fury from some farmers relates to a proposal by European investors…, to build a multi-million dollar 100 room cabana project on 26 acres of land … Some of the farmers own these lands while others lease, and have vowed to die before they give up their lands.”

2. GIVE THE FARMERS A FAIR CHANCE (SEARCHLIGHT 24/02/2006)

“Last week, officials of the Government met with farmers who own or lease land in the Buccament area to inform them that the land has been sold for hotel development and they would have to give up their holdings … It is unfortunate that advertisements marketing the Buccament development overseas began before Government had a chance to let the farmers know of their plans for the area.”

According to Renwick, I must agree: “Information is a mere finger-tip away, consciousness seems to be light-years distant”.

Matthew Thomas

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