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Open letter to the Hon Arnhim U Eustace, Leader of the Opposition

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EDITOR: I write on behalf of the many Vincentians and in particular, the youth of SVG, who are quite concerned about your recent pronouncements in New York that should the NDP regain power that the descendants of the Garifuna people who once called St Vincent home will be granted “honorary citizenship.” We, therefore, have a few questions that we hope you will oblige us in answering.{{more}} We sincerely hope that these questions are not deemed “foolish” or “out of place,” as they are asked with the best interest of the people of SVG at heart.

1. After consultation with how many groups of people did you come upon this conclusion? Did you consult the Garifuna population here, other interested Vincentian citizens, all the Garifuna groups in the diaspora, the Garifuna who continue to reside in Belize, Honduras and other areas of Latin America and the world?

2. To whom exactly is this “honorary citizenship” to be conveyed? Will it only be those persons who were wrongfully exiled? Will it be the descendants of those persons?

3. Will it therefore be a prerequisite for such citizenship that these persons present ancestral DNA testing? Will it be possible to specifically identify that this person is a descendant of e.g. Arumani DuValle (not a real person) who was exiled from St Vincent?

4. Will there be background checks and criminal records required of all 800,000 plus Garifuna descendants? Will those who are incarcerated in their respective countries also be given citizenship? What document will be given to these new “honorary” citizens?

5. What will be the rights conferred on these persons? Citizenship confers many rights. Access to the courts, the right to own land, protection under the law, just to name a few. Will they carry Vincentian passports?

6. What about the legal implications of this honorary citizenship? Will the definition of a citizen be changed? What about international law? Will St Vincent be opening up itself to being sued as a result of the actions of, and being able to sue on behalf of, the Garifuna?

7. Are the issues relating to the Garifuna in the diaspora, in Honduras, Belize etc, in any way related to the issues of our own indigenous people who reside north of the dry river? Is this an attempt to conflate and confuse issues for political gain?

8. Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to posthumously recognize and note the Garifuna who were wrongfully exiled?

9. As a show of support, would you agree to honour Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer and the Garifuna people by your presence personally on National Heroes Day, March 14, 2016 at the Obelisk in Dorsetshire Hill should God grant life? To my recollection you have never done this thus far in your tenure as Opposition Leader.

Please note that this is not an attack on the Garifuna people. The questions posed by Dr Gonsalves have been construed as an attack on social media and otherwise. We acknowledge that our Garifuna people have had many means of recognition, particularly through the naming of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer as National Hero. Further their culture has been sought to be reintroduced to our land, through educational seminars with regard to their music and language.

I do hope that you will give an ear to our concerns.

Kezron JS Walters

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