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How long shall we kill our prophets?

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Tue, Oct 7, 2014

Editor: The legendary Bob Marley, in his hit “REDEMPTION SONG,” wrote: “How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look? Some say it’s just a part of it, we’ve got to fulfill the book.”

When I read the lead story of THE NEWS newspaper of 26/09/2014, under the caption:

B&L SELLS PROPERTY WITH RESIDENT, recognizing that that resident is 86-year-old Thomas Augustus “Chippy” Browne, my heart bled. I felt depressed. Immediately, I tied it to the persecution of Leon “Bigger Biggs” Samuel, a pioneer in block making and like “Chippy,” a man from the Valley. While in Bob Marley’s lyrics, it is THEY KILL OUR PROPHETS, in today’s SVG, it is WE KILL OUR PROPHETS.{{more}}

WHO IS THOMAS AUGUSTUS “CHIPPY” BROWNE?

Chippy, as a young public servant, took the risk to mortgage everything he had in order to support his wife Velma, and together they brought real commercial business to Mespo. At their VELMA BROWNE SHOPPING CENTRE in Freeland, the Brownes attracted people from all walks of life and it was a pleasant sight to see shoppers from Kingstown going to VELMA BROWNE SHOPPING CENTRE on weekends. While Velma held the fort at Freeland, Chippy was seen driving through the various villages at all hours of night, buying nutmegs and spices for export.

Chippy in his heyday was a light onto the Valley. The name Mespo was virtually indistinguishable without Chippy. He was in politics. Unlike the old adage that behind every successful man is a woman, he was the man behind the successful Levi Latham and later his own son, Ken, the “Iron Man.” The St John’s Roman Catholic Community in The Valley, could not have had the success it once enjoyed, without the input of Chippy and Velma, his wife, together with the Baileys, George and Reuben, and the Miguels, among others. A Catholic Church harvest in Mespo in October was always an occasion to remember. Without a Chippy Browne also, I am doubtful that there would have been a Marriaqua Secondary School.

With business in Freeland a success, the Brownes took their VELMA BROWNE AND SON SHOPPING CENTRE to Kingstown with their CHARMAINE’S BOUTIQUE, the term boutique almost a novelty then. It was situated at the corner of Sharpe and Back Street, the building that now houses BMC AGENCIES. While in town, the Brownes brought gaiety to the streets on Carnival Monday evenings, being among the first to introduce a T-SHIRT band under the banner: “CHIPPIES.”

In light of the above, it is rather sad, if not galling, to witness the humiliating experiences that such an individual has to go through in the twilight of his years.

WHO IS LEON “BIGGER BIGGS”?

Leon “Bigger Biggs” at the early age of 22 entered the realm of entrepreneurism in the business of block making. After more than 25 years, rather than being honoured and promoted as an exemplar of youth entrepreneurship, he is being hauled before the court like a common criminal.

BIGGER BIGGS’ blocks were of an unprecedented high quality. He invested millions, and his product hit the road with a bang.

BIGGER BIGGS’ woes began after he had exercised his constitutional and democratic right to speak on an NDP political campaign platform at Richland Park, in the December 2010 general elections. The following day he was threatened by a member of the higher echelons of the ruling ULP governing party, with the words: “Let Bigger Biggs leave politics to the politicians.” His sand mining licence was taken away from him in February 2011, for no apparent valid reasons. Since then he has twice been arrested and charged for peacefully staging a one-man protest in Kingstown. When he appeared in court on 17/09/2014, one of his defence lawyers, Bayliss Frederick, objected to him having to plead. According to Frederick: “My objection was based upon the fact that the charges are frivolous, vexatious and purely political.” (SEARCHLIGHT 19/09/2014).

MARRIAQUA: A CONSTITUENCY WITH A RICH LEGACY

The Marriaqua constituency over the years has produced men and women of grit, determination and entrepreneurism. The following examples will suffice:

1. Marriaqua is the only one of 13 constituencies on St Vincent that has three secondary schools, all non-governmental. Apart from Bequia, it is the only constituency where the Government does not own a secondary school. They are: the Mountain View Academy, the Emmanuel High School and the Marriaqua Secondary.

2. The Marriaqua Friendly Society, (BUN PAN), is among the oldest and the most vibrant Friendly Societies. This was started by a simple wood-cutter, Nathaniel “Bunpan” Guy, who I was told also started the Barrouallie Friendly Society.

3. MANUFACTURING

(1)The East Indian Community of Richland Park for years made their mark in garment manufacture, as is exemplified by JAX.

(11) BIGGER BIGGS, among others, in block making.

(111) VINGREN GASS owned by the Cambridges in the production of liquid gas.

4. CONSTRUCTION

(1) BAILEY TURN-KEY CONSTRUCTION FIRM was among the first locally registered construction firms in SVG and was headed by the late Reuben Bailey.

(11) IAN CATO CONSTRUCTION FIRM, headed by the late Ian Cato.

5. TRANSPORTATION – Bertille “Silky Da Silva revolutionalized the transportation in Mespo and throughout SVG with his STAR GARAGE AND TOYOTA.

6. AGRICULTURE: For years, Mespo owned the name of the Food Basket of SVG.

7. POLITICS: SVG’s first native Governor and first Knight, was Sir Rupert John, a man from the Valley.

With such a rich legacy, it is a disgrace for the sons and daughters of such great pioneers to sit idly by and allow their fellowmen to be so humiliated and persecuted, especially by someone who is not of the same hue.

GIRLYN (THE ROSE OF THE VALLEY), YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY

With almost 14 years as a Cabinet Minister and deputy prime minister, what then is your legacy? Are you empathizing with the plight of your brother Chippy, or brother Ordan Graham, who had to flee from political terrorism? What about your son BIGGER BIGGS? Do you bemoan his plight or do you gloat over his demise?

ROMAN CATHOLIC, BISHOP JASON GORDON LAMENTS

It does appear, however, that the stench has become unbearable. This is according to Bishop Jason Gordon, when, in his address to the “The People of God in the Diocese of Kingstown,” he said:

“For a long time, we as church have failed to speak with a prophetic voice. We lament the growing disrespect for the human person,…the increase in lawlessness, crime and violence in our nation. Social concerns, such as those teachers who are still waiting to be reinstated, the unresolved ‘Bigger Biggs’ situation and a sense of hopelessness and fear amongst our people continue to disturb us… Are we contributing to a society where peace and justice is no longer our daily experience?…As your pastors, we propose that the entire Catholic Community listen again to the sacred scriptures…which challenge us to right living and to build peace, through forgiveness and reconciliation. That we respect the right of each person to exercise his or her political will; that we consciously work on our ability to respect the personal differences and opinions of each other, that being ourselves transformed by the gospel, we challenge this culture of disunity.” (SEARCHLIGHT, 09/09/2014)

PRIME MINISTER GONSALVES RESPONDED

In an eight-page letter addressed to the Bishop, Prime Minister Gonsalves responded among other things, thus:

“In this ‘Earthly City’, it is always required that we must get the facts right when “the voice” speaks on political and social issues. If the presumptive prophetic voice utters falsehoods on the facts, it becomes a false prophecy… Your recitation of misery in our blessed land is not in the true, as distinct from a contrived tradition of Jeremiah… Indeed, your one-sided recitation is not in accord with the Ministry of Jesus Christ himself… A prophetic voice is severely undermined to the extent that it downplays or ignores the substantial and in some cases, extraordinary achievements of God’s people… They are there for all except the politically jaundiced… There is much in our society and polity which requires correction or redemption, but a one- sided litany of woes does not and cannot, represent the truth… Your letter is at variance with the facts which are already in the public domain… I find it strange that you would ignore Bigger Biggs utter disregard of the environment… in your not- so veiled championing of his cause… I reject, too, your unsubstantiated and erroneous view that there exist, disturbingly, “a sense of hopelessness and fear amongst our people”. Where is your evidence? It is this type of polemical and inchoate observation that one expects from a partisan political source.” (SEARCHLIGHT 19/09/2014)

With the foregoing, the Hon Girlyn Miguel, as Representative for Marriaqua, stands before the proverbial crucifix. The question is being asked: Whom do you choose? You choose wrongly, you would not be able to stand the voice of your conscience. Whenever that happens, a mere 10 Hail Marys will not suffice, it must be Mea Culpa. Mea Culpa. Mea Maxima Culpa. (Through My Fault. Through My Fault. Through My Most Grievous Fault.)

Matthew Thomas

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