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Stormy September

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Let me begin on a positive note in extending hearty congratulations to well-known social activist Mr Junior Bacchus on his appointment as honorary Consul of the Republic of India in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

It is a fitting appointment, given Mr. Bacchus’ role in promoting links between SVG and India and in particular in promoting Indian cultural heritage.

The government must also be applauded for the establishment of diplomatic relations with India as part of the broadening of our foreign policy. It is long overdue and looking back at my archives; I found, interestingly, an article that I had written in FREEDOM, Aug. 16, 1974, which concluded as follows:

“The Indian people in Youlou………..have lost much of their original culture. Indians should begin to make serious efforts to rediscover their culture and to learn their history. Links with India should be strengthened as should links with progressive Indian brothers and sisters throughout the Caribbean….”
Mr. Bacchus has been on this course and his appointment bears testimony to his work.

On a sad note, condolences are in order to the families of the late icon of radio broadcasting in SVG, E.B. John, the Grenadian fighter for women’s rights, Phyllis Coard, and the former Attorney General of SVG, Mr Emery Robertson, who all passed away over the past month.

Mr Robertson, in addition to his legal career, had a political affiliation and association with what is now the New Democratic Party (NDP) and its predecessor, the so-called “Junta” government of former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell and the late Ebeneezer Joshua’s PPP. He also became Attorney General when the NDP was voted into office. He was buried on September 11, 2020.

September- storms of more than one type

The month of September has become infamous as the month when the hurricane season in the Caribbean is at its height. Over the years the region has experienced some very destructive storms, beginning with Janet in 1955 and including Flora (1967), David (1979) and Maria (2017).

But it has also been a month of political storms as well, none more so than the one which was brewing in Grenada in 1983, which reached its climax in the tragedies of October in that year, bringing about the bloody disintegration of the Grenada Revolution and worse, the total setback to the forward march of progressive politics in the region as a whole.

More than a decade before, in 1972 to be exact, our own country had its share of stormy September politics. Then, a government, brought about by a marriage of political convenience between Joshua and Mitchell, the former heading a party with six seats having acceded to Mitchell’s demands for nothing else but Head of Government, then Premiership, with his sole seat, in order to keep the Labour party, with six seats also, out of government after the famous 6-6 tie in the April 1972 elections.

That result not only evoked cultural response, in the words of the late calypsonian, Leader, “Two parties run but none ah dem ain’t win”, but also gave rise to one of the two most memorable political calculations in the Caribbean. In 1962, Trinidad’s Dr. Eric Williams is reputed to have sealed the fate of the West Indian Federation, with his infamous theory that “1 from 10 leaves 0” following Jamaica’s decision to withdraw from the Federation. After April 1972, Vincentians adopted their own political calculation, “One more than six”, implying that Mitchell’s lone seat was worth more than the six each held by Joshua and Cato respectively.

Predictably tensions arose in the political marriage, many of a subjective nature, Mitchell himself having recently resigned from the previous Cato government in which he was a Minister, but for objective reasons as well, many of which are overlooked today. Whatever its faults and weaknesses, the Mitchell/Joshua government had to contend with one of the biggest global economic crises since the Great Depression of the thirties.

It was occasioned by the oil crisis of 1973 when oil producing countries, dominated by Arab nations, sought to control the global oil market, imposing massive production cuts leading to an astronomical increase in the price of fuel. Even large developed economies found it hard to cope, but for small countries like ours with scarce resources, the effect was catastrophic.

In order to keep the ship of state afloat, unity of vision and purpose were required, neither of which was present in the “Junta” government. The initial cracks and strains soon started to develop into political chasms, openly visible to all. It was plain that something had to give. A mortal blow was struck by Joshua at the Agricultural Exhibition staged at the Grammar School Grounds in August 1974.

During a rain-soaked address, Joshua, then Minister of Trade and Agriculture, openly alluded to what he called Mitchell’s treachery, using in his typical style an illusion about “a snake in the bosom”. It was clear that the die was being cast, the result of which were to unfurl during the stormy month of September 1974.
Next week: The September showdown

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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