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Alternative considerations in realizing SVG/Belize Garifuna linkage

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Editor: With all the discussions and debate on the Garifuna honorary citizenship issue, I feel that there is also room for other proposals which can serve to realize more readily the historical linkage between the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Garifuna community in Belize and elsewhere.{{more}}

I, personally, think that among the suggestions that could be considered are as follows:

1. Strengthen any existing cooperation with the Garifuna community in Belize in trade and culture.

2. Strengthen any existing cooperation with the Garifuna community in Belize in education.

All this must be done within the ambits of best practices and regulations and laws (where applicable) in the diplomatic world.

On trade, Belize is a member of CARICOM, just as St Vincent and the Grenadines is. We can more readily work through the existing regulatory framework which guides freedom of movement within CARICOM borders and ease of establishing businesses.

As a result of this historical linkage between SVG and Belize, the level of xenophobia in other CARICOM states, which acts as a barrier to the full realization of freedom of movement and so on, should not be so extant between SVG and Belize, if, in fact, the potential and collective will strongly exists between the peoples of SVG and Belize to more readily integrate.

This should result in some Belizean businesses (especially owned by members of the Garifuna community) being established in SVG and some Vincentian businesses being operated in Belize.

On culture, there are many Vincentians who would love to learn the Garifuna language. If this language is present in Belize, a cultural exchange programme can be developed to either have Vincentians go to Belize to learn the language or, instead, have Belizeans come to SVG to teach the language to those interested in learning it.

There has even been mention in some circles locally of including the teaching of the Garifuna language as part of our primary school curriculum. This too can be explored.

There are organizations such as The Garifuna Heritage Foundation (TGHF), which can aid in facilitating any such move by the Government, through the Ministry of Culture.

There can also be cultural exchanges, through visits by students from both countries, in activities relating to music and the arts in general, just as it happens between SVG and Cuba.

On education, SVG is a leader in nursing education in the Caribbean, with its nurses doing well working in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and even outside the region, in the United Kingdom, Canada and the US.

The possibility of offering some scholarships to members of the Garifuna community in Belize to come to SVG to pursue training in nursing, teaching and other suitable areas at our Community College at the Associate’s and Bachelor’s levels, where applicable, can be considered.

These, to me, are just a few suggestions that can be at least considered in the whole debate.

Demion (Black Star) McTair

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