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SVG yearns for leadership

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Editor: St Vincent and the Grenadines is in a dilemma. We are on one hand saddled with a PIED PIPER, who attracts followers even as he makes irresponsible promises and decisions, and will pipe after another fashion to the detriment of the nation in order to punish folks who put him in a passion. The electorate in 2001 saw a pied piper in Dr Ralph Gonsalves, but paradoxically the rat population has grown an hundred fold and we have lost and continue to lose our children; on the other hand we are saddled with an alternative, whose rhyme or reason is neither philosophic nor pragmatic.{{more}}

I was appalled when I saw a photo of CARICOM Heads of Government at the just concluded 36th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, in Bridgetown, Barbados of 04/07/2015, in The Vincentian newspaper of 24/07/2015 on page 5. The newspaper wrote: “Note SVG Representative, Ambassador Ellsworth John, extreme right front.” The topic of the article was: CARICOM ON THE GUYANA – VENEZUELA IMPASSE. An excerpt from the article read thus:

“They discussed in detail Decree No 1787 of 26 May, 2015, issued by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Heads noted in particular the negative implications which the Decree has for the peace, security and development of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana… and for several other CARICOM countries… Heads of Government therefore call upon the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela…to withdraw those elements of Decree 1787 in so far as they apply to the territory and maritime space of CARICOM States.”

Elsewhere on page 5 of The Vincentian, the paper quoted: (1) “President Granger affirmed: ‘We will not allow our territorial integrity to be threatened or violated, we consider Decree 1787 as constituting an act of aggression against Guyana.’ And (2) under the caption WPA CONDEMNS CARICOM STATEMENT: ‘The heads would rather be rid of the problem which might have been the position of Dominica, Haiti, Jamaica and St Vincent who have especially benefitted from the Venezuelan connection.’”

WHAT IS THE DISPUTE

Guyana, a CARICOM member, has a population of 747,884 and is comprised of three regions, namely Berbice, Demerara and the Essequibo, a total of 215,000 sq km/83,000 sq mi, of which Essequibo, almost two thirds, borders Venezuela on the west. Venezuela has a population of 30.41 million and an area of 916,445 sq km/353,841 sq mi.

Venezuela has historically been laying claim to the Essequibo and in 1899, an international arbitration awarded the disputed Essequibo territory to Guyana, then British Guiana. Venezuela never accepted the agreement. Guyana becoming independent in 1966, Venezuela again made its advances, but by an act of aggression from Britain coupled with the Treaty of Geneva of 1966, which was signed by the Governments of Britain, Guyana and Venezuela, Venezuela had to back off. The Essequibo is believed to be pregnant with oil; hence the Venezuelan aggression.

RALPH THE PIED PIPER

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who is so full of himself that he invariably sees himself as endowed with celestial powers, is quoted as saying that at birth he was anointed Prophet, Priest and King. His latest tirade at a press conference in dealing with the Haitian/Dominican Republic Born Citizen problem was:

“A lot of people ask me, ‘Why are you Ralph so strong on this matter? I say I am strong on this in the same way that I’m strong on other things…Persons of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic… are denied citizenship…Those people have no one to talk for them, so I have to do it because I know Jesus would have done it.” Gonsalves said. (Kenton Chance I-Witness News, 22/06/2015).

One would have thought that this Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, this man of charisma, this man of our great Caribbean civilization would be first in the forefront of this dispute, but he has again insulted this nation by sending, in the context, a nonentity in the form of an ambassador to represent us at a Heads of Government conference. Where was the Prime Minister? Where was his deputy, Girlyn Miguel? Where was his son and heir apparent, Foreign Affairs Minister, Camillo Gonsalves? If we think that his disrespect for the Barbados conference was ridiculous, it is more dastardly to see him, along with wife Eloise, enjoying themselves in Venezuela at a time when there is heightened tension between Venezuela and a CARICOM member. (See photo on the back page of the SEARCHLIGHT, 28/07/2015). His presence in Venezuela at this time signals one of two things or both: (1) He who pays the piper calls the tune or (2) I couldn’t care, I show you where my allegiance is.

OUR RESPONSIBLITIES AS A CARICOM NATION

From its inception, CARICOM was conceptualized to forge the member states of the English speaking Caribbean into a federation of a single political, social and economic block. This was the spirit of the charter signed by the sitting heads under the Treaty of Chaguramus, in 1972, dubbed CARIFTA, which was the forerunner of CARICOM. Today, instead of consolidating our gains and fulfilling the charter of moving towards the one State of the former British colonies, it has been watered down into all forms of extended forum, such as CARIFORUM, with little or no effect.

Guyana, with its huge land mass and large deposits of natural resources, was to be the genesis of the development for the region. Other CARICOM territories were to own or acquire lands in Guyana; hence the reason why St Vincent is able to own a rice mill in Guyana. Guyana was to be the capital; hence the CARICOM Office was placed in Guyana. On the surface, it may appear that Venezuela has more to offer, but this may be so in the minds of those possessed of a tunnel vision. Had the wishes of the forefathers of CARICOM come true, coupled with the educational advancement and our level of social development, Guyana and the rest of the region would have been far more developed and nothing like Venezuela could have posed any threat to Guyana and to CARICOM. Think of Britain’s size; think of its world power. Think of Singapore, a tiny dot and the world power it has become. It is all in the power of creativity, not in mendicancy.

Matthew Thomas

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