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Give St Vincent a round of applause!

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This weekend marks the culmination of national celebrations to commemorate our country’s Independence anniversary. Held under the theme “Renewal @40”, a wide range of activities will mark the climax of the Festival including some innovations.

Our country is not unique in its experience of a number of socio-economic problems, which not only concern its citizens, but also act as a constraint on national development. We hear about them everyday – unemployment and under-employment, violent crime, rape and sexual assault especially against minors, indiscipline and profanity, cultural alienation – you name it. These all cry out for urgent attention at a national level, yet despite this need we remain more politically divided than ever, diminishing our capacity to tackle them for lack of a consensual national focus.

These are all issues on which citizens, including columnists like myself and a host of media commentators, have had their say. But while never neglecting or ignoring our negative realities, it is important to put them in perspective, and in so doing, look on the bright side. Whatever one’s political loyalties, it is an undeniable fact that as a country and people we have made tremendous strides, over the last 40 years.

Successive governments have played their part in this but above all, we must pay tribute to the resilience of our people.

We reclaimed our independence in the midst of trying to recover from the devastation of the Soufriere volcanic eruption. More than a dozen tropical storms, floods and related occurrences since then have severely tested our mettle. Our infrastructure, homes and economic base have been battered time and again with our farmers and fisherfolk bearing the brunt.

Each time we have picked ourselves up and with the assistance of friends, here and abroad, have rebuilt our lives and economy. The Agricultural exhibition, just concluded, and the current National Exhibition showcase the entrepreneurial capacity of our young people in particular. Too often we regard our youth only in negative terms, but their efforts and output speak for themselves.

It is not just limited to these areas for perhaps the most heartening aspect of our four decades of independence has been the development of our human capacity. There is absolutely no comparison, only marked contrast between 1979 and now in this regard. Young doctors, trained nurses, young professionals of all types, young people and young women in particular lead the way. It is an accomplishment of which we should be real proud.

Yes, it is true that we still have many shortcomings which need to be addressed, but we must be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water. Criticisms of our current state do not negate the advancements that we have made, under successive administrations, rather it tells us that much more is possible.

Just as the development of our human resource capacity has been one of our success stories, our failure to engage in civilised dialogue, the lack of tolerance we display and the related social ills mentioned above continue to plague us. After 40 years the attitude of too many of us to Independence depends on which party is in office, a most unfortunate outlook which gnaws away at our patriotism and national consciousness. As De Man Age reminds us, we still “Have a country to build”.

But this is no excuse for not celebrating a national milestone, for not collectively savouring the moment, for not rejoicing in our achievements. Whatever our age, gender, economic or social status, whatever our political outlook, we are VINCY and share in the successes and failures of our nation.

Let us on this occasion, remember and pay tribute to those whose sacrifice has brought us this far, appreciate our advances, take note of our failures and vow to correct them. Yet, for Independence 40, let us, in the words of Winston Soso: “GIVE OUR COUNTRY A ROUND OF APPLAUSE, CONGRATULATIONS”
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE!

Renwick Rose
is a community activist and social comm
entator.

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