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Plainly ‘Jomo’

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Editor: St Vincent and the Grenadines has been blessed with social movers of every ilk through the times, as can be seen by our forefathers fight to repel the invading British forces, their struggle for better working conditions on the plantations, the quest for political independence and identity, post-colonial social justice and reformation and many other macro issues relating to the institutions (formal and informal) that have been embedded into our local Vincentian and annexed Caribbean civilization.{{more}}

As we celebrate 33 years of Independence with some gala topped by the usual Independence Day military parade, replete with ceremony and pomp, and as some deserving Vincentians will receive the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award, I would like to make the case for a more meagre, albeit ‘national’ award for stalwart social commentator and lawyer, Mr. Jomo Thomas.

I start with the premise that everyone knows “Jomo”. To take that statement a bit further, everyone knows Jomo’s politics. Of course, these are all subjective statements that would no doubt feed the political animal in us to determine the answer to the question “Why Jomo?” But then, I can simply ask, “Why not Jomo?” and I am sure that many reasons can be given. Some critics may argue that Jomo for his nationalistic views spent a considerable number of years courting the imperialist life, rarely stopping to shed a tear for his Vincentian brothers and sisters. On his return home, Jomo has tangoed with both Unity Labour Party (ULP) and the New Democratic Party (NDP) political beasts and it would be remiss not to point out the circumstances under which he left the now disbanded Social Investment Fund (SIF). Further, to some extent, mindful of all the political realities, we may also add that his co-founding Peoples Movement for Change (PMC) has not been as vibrant as originally thought.

Whatever your views on the hand-picked issues above or the usual mud-slinging that may have been thrown his way from both ends of the colour spectrum, a keen reading of Jomo’s weekly ‘Plain Talk’ column in the Vincentian newspaper will no doubt send his critics to flight. It is on his individuality that Jomo has led the field of our contemporary social analysts. This fight to unbridle himself from the trappings of systemic political malaise through institutions (re-SIF SAGA) maybe seen as a reason he fought so aggressively to complete his Bar training. In just a few short years, adorned in the black ‘elitist’ robe, Mr Thomas has already made his mark in ensuring justice for those who may be easily lost in our mainly singular retributive justice system. His refusal to accept briefs that serve political masters and to feed at this trough of abuse of process to further political tribalism, as in the case of some of his colleagues, who still seek to unsettle (without intellectual originality) the settled law of the discretionary use of the powers of the DPP, has not escaped the admiration of this writer.

However, it is his biting commentaries that have been savoury. His ‘Plain Talk’ columns are always guided with a philosophy that St Vincent and the Grenadines, though trapped in a globalized world, is free to shape and carve her own political space. He has touched on every significant issue that relates to our social, economic, political and cultural development in localised, regional and international view points. Plain Talk’s pen has been the proverbial ‘double edged sword of justice’, speaking up against the wrong doings by both ‘master and servant’. We have a timely reminder in his September 13th, 2012 column “sometimes, many of the things you support, in the name of party, are anti-national and objectively in contradiction to your own personal interest”.

Everyone has a right to disagree with his diagnosis and treatment of our problems, but how many of us are ‘free’ enough to make worthwhile attempts at national discourse. In fact, Mr Thomas has not been one to hide his nationalistic, social agenda nor has he joined the weekly ‘pull down’ bandwagon that celebrates our failures and our human fallacies. As a human being, there has to be a significant problem if every day of the week, we are re-drawing our battle lines in camps to support or depose. Our God-given lives cannot be a perpetual ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ campaign without a break to refresh ourselves in a drink of humanity and life. It is here also that Jomo has been a notch above the rest. Whether, it is his commentaries on sports or health, technology and the like, Mr ‘Plain Talk’ has always purged himself from becoming a political zombie.

In short, this article is not a treatise on Jomo Thomas for sainthood or a preface to a larger undertaking, it is a mere attempt to celebrate the contribution of a Vincentian brother (elder) who has carved out a space in the contemporary Vincentian social sphere. His sharp tongue does not readily fit his ‘cool as a cucumber’ personality, as his writings and work are a mere shadow of his ‘imperial’ occupation. Whatever your politics, you can’t help but admire that someone with all our human frailties has sought to have a different type of conversation.

In this regard, on this occasion of our 33rd anniversary of Independence, I salute Jomo Thomas and the legacy he is building in the trenches to further our post-colonial thinking and attitude.

Adaiah J Providence – Culzac
comments at cemsvg@gmail.com

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