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Never a dull moment

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With all the activities around Independence celebrations, including the annual independence pronouncements and awards, Vincentians have still found other things to chatter about, ranging from the Christian fightback to the challenge to the Buggery laws, the resignation of the Speaker of Parliament and even a brazen daylight shooting. It seems like there is never a dull moment in SVG.

My comments are rather more sedate this week, so here goes:

1. ‘TWO INDEPENDENCE IN ONE’
A couple years ago, Dennis Bowman had a big Christmas hit called “two Christmas in one”. Perhaps because I liked the song, I was rewarded with the satisfaction of celebrating “Two Independence in one”, attending independence celebrations in two countries as diverse as Canada and Cuba. A great experience it turned out to be for me.

First I went to Winnipeg, to which I had the honour to be invited by the SVG Association of Winnipeg to deliver the keynote address at its annual function to celebrate independence. Normally, these types of invitations are extended to government officials, so not only was I honoured, but I also thought it a positive step for the Association to so invite a civil society person.

Two activities were planned for October 25 and 26 – a Town Hall open discussion followed by the Banquet and dance on Saturday 26th. While the Town Hall discussion was not as well attended as either the organizers or myself would have liked, the level of discussion compensated for it. The audience was a mostly mature one and I was impressed by the level of reasoning and the fact that those present not only seemed to be very much in touch with developments here at home, but that most of them had visited here in recent times.

I was also struck by the nature of their concerns. Those included the serious national shortcoming about the negative influence of political partisanship and the deep divisions it has caused in our society. There was strong support for the policy of extending educational opportunities to young Vincentians, particularly those who would not normally be able to afford tertiary education.

Interesting comments were also made on the issue of the medical cannabis programme. Canada has been one of the leading nations in the world on this subject so it is natural that Vincentians there would show some interest in this regard. It was pleasing to hear, not the usual uninformed and emotional responses but questions raised and concerns voiced about the possible repercussions if we sold out substantial quantities of land to foreigners for this purpose. This was so especially in relation to any negative effect on local food production.

Finally, (and this was an issue that I raised in my address at the Banquet), the Winnipeg Vincentians expressed a wish for closer cooperation not only with government and national institutions here but also with other Vincentian organizations in the diaspora. In my address at the banquet I suggested a more proactive role for the Diaspora Unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, efforts to establish umbrella relationships, such as between all such Vincentian associations in Canada, with similar initiatives in the USA and Canada and even exchange visits between them.

2. HAVANA – POSITIVE STUDENTS

I had the pleasure of meeting once again with our newest professional aspirants in Cuba, the undergraduate students, though for logistic reasons only those from Havana. Ambassador John and his wife hosted both a meeting with the students on Saturday 26 and immediately following the 40th anniversary independence reception.

It was of interest to me to meet the students, given the hysterical hue and cry in some quarters here at home about their plight and the suggestions that not only were they virtually starving but that government had abandoned them. I got no such impression either from the meeting with the PM or from interacting with them afterwards. Quite naturally there were concerns raised but in a completely different context to the hysteria that some were attempting to stir up here at home.

They made representation to the PM for consideration of an increase in stipend to help to alleviate the situation. They also raised the matter of the possibility of direct flights to Cuba from SVG to avoid the detour via T&T and Panama which also increases costs. Another concern voiced was that of job placements after graduation, to which the PM not only indicated his appreciation of their concerns but also pointed to the global and regional opportunities, particularly for bilingual graduates and urged them to view the world as a global village.

To conclude the evening there was the Ambassador’s reception. The range of guests itself spoke volumes for the high regard in which this country is held internationally and the respect which it has gained in international circles. This tiny country is playing a pivotal role in regional and international affairs of which we can be justly proud.

Renwick Rose
is a community activist and social comm
entator.

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