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A sensible approach to foreign policy

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PART 1 Congratulations are the order of the day. Congrats to Earl ‘Ole George’ Daniel for his historic non-stop seven-day walk in Jamaica which will surely put him in the Guinness Book of Records this time. Joel Butcher who started out with ‘Ole George’ dropped out after a sprain. What is more ‘Ole George’ has etched an indelible page in the annals of Caribbean history and in the minds of Vincentians, Jamaicans and all the people of the Caribbean! We are one thousand times more proud of them both!

Congrats too to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves for his excellent address to the United Nations General Assembly last Thursday. Like ‘Ole George’ and Butcher, our PM must have made all Vincentians, at home and abroad, vastly proud, not just on account of his eloquence but more so because of the nature of the issues he raised before this august body. Only those drenched by the mud of partisan, politics or personal dislike would beg to differ.{{more}}

Gonsalves’ UN address came just a week after he, and the SVG delegation, had brought much credit to our country for their input at the 14th Summit Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Havana, Cuba. But what galls me, and, (can I dare to assume?), all progressive and patriotic people has been the negative reaction of some persons in our society as expressed in the media. Those who do not know better I can excuse, but some of those spewing out such negativity surely are not in that position. The danger is that rather than educate and uplift, and criticize constructively, their comments serve only to strengthen ignorance.

Thus, the usefulness of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is questioned. All well and good. But to question it on the grounds of what financial assistance it provides is completely besides the point. Even the Grenadian Prime Minister Keith Mitchell fell into this trap, referring to assistance post-Ivan. The NAM is not the UN, World Bank or UNDP, nor does it pretend to be. But can Keith Mitchell say that member nations of the NAM, including SVG, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Jamaica and Barbados did not provide assistance? So what nonsense is he speaking, misleading the gullible?

Sadly, one of our own prominent columnists seemed to have been entrapped in the gullible net, making reference to Mitchell. Worse, the idea is advanced that because our country, and many other Caribbean countries benefit from remittances from relatives in the United States, the UK or Canada, then our government has no right to ally itself with whatever international grouping it so chooses. That backward idea was advanced during the US invasion of Iraq in order to justify US actions, by an individual who was so backward that his own political colleagues had to eventually distance themselves from his embarrassing ranting and pull the plug out from his radio programme.

There is grave dishonesty in this line of reasoning. First, and we must NEVER be apologetic about this Those remittances represent not the gift of the governments of the US, UK and Canada, but the fruit of the HARDWORK of our own nationals, many still illegal and many of whom virtually slave in two or three jobs at a time to be able to get something to send home. They are no different to the nationals of Poland, Ireland, Japan, India, Germany or Thailand, or the citizens of Britain and Canada living in the US for example, who send home remittances. What does this have to do with the foreign policy of the governments concerned? Don’t the foreign banks and companies investing in our countries send remittances back to their host-countries, far more than our nationals can muster? We must not buy such TRASH talk.

Secondly, a clear distinction must be made between PEOPLE and GOVERNMENTS. Our own P.M. in his U.N. address made that clear. I quote: “Please note that my strictures are levelled at the governments of these countries and not their people or their civilisation”….

Disagreement with US foreign policy is not being anti-American. Friendship between our respective peoples goes far beyond government-to-government relationships which cool or warm depending on the nature of the administrations at the time. Besides it is not governments which cause any raptures, rather it is the arrogance of those who presume that might is equated with right and dare to try and impose on us their own views.

We must NEVER, NEVER, no matter how poor lose our dignity nor sense of independence. We must be able to develop relations with the Chavez government in Venezuela but have the courage to disagree with President Chavez’ out-of-order description of the US President as “El Diablo” (the devil) before the world body, even if many of US view the policies and actions of the Bush administration as devilish. That is what being non-aligned means. Yet we must also point out that the so-called “spiteful words” are often caused by spiteful, harmful interventionist actions, such as US support for a coup against Chavez or its well-documented assassination attempts against Fidel Castro.

Let us not turn history on its head.

PART TWO NEXT WEEK.

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