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A sensible foreign policy


Part 2

In this month marking the anniversary of our achievement of independence, it is appropriate that we focus on how we have been using one of the rights deriving from our accession to independent status to conduct our own relations with the rest of the world so as to suit our best interests.

Generally speaking, our country can take some satisfaction as to how it has conducted its foreign affairs. But there have been many areas of weakness and some of these are still with us, uncorrected in spite of 27 years in the business.{{more}}

In the first place, we took some time to have the courage to advance beyond the lines of our “traditional friends”, a term often used by the architects of our first post-independence foreign policy, the late Milton Cato and Hudson Tannis. Our first five years as an independent country were largely spent “in the crease” that colonialism had marked out for us, playing straight down the wicket and not daring to try and score outside that box. Understandably so, given the nature of the post-independence government and its trepidation over rapid, revolutionary changes then sweeping the world.

The Mitchell government went a little further, taking singles on both sides of the wicket (to continue with my cricketing parlance) and even daring to drive through the covers ( of US hegemonism) to open up relations with Cuba. Prime Minister Gonsalves has put more spunk to our foreign policy thrust and with the outspoken Sir Louis Straker as Foreign Minister, SVG has managed to maintain relations with “traditional friends”, even managing to get UK debt forgiveness, while strongly supporting Taiwan and moving closer to Cuba and Chavez’ Venezuela. Our foreign policy now has a decidedly anti-imperialist leaning.

This was reflected in the P.M’s address to the United Nations. In his call for the UN to be beacon of hope for the poor and disadvantaged in the world, Dr. Gonsalves was not afraid to say that his call is made “without the vanity of a pretentious hegemony, an arrogance of power, or a triumphalism of a presumed manifest destiny.” He “throw he corn, but nah call no fowl.” And, one can only note with pride his appeal for a focused UN on behalf of the world’s poor. ” The world’s people want to know, and see the practical evidence, that the United Nations is tackling in a purposeful way the issues of global poverty, environmental degradation, climate change, the empowerment of women, the protection of children, the promotion of peace and security, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the provision of clean water and an adequate supply of food, among other such telling requisites.”

Continuing in this vein, the P.M. lamented the “parsimony” of developed states on development assistance and their blunt refusal in trade talks to remove the trade obstacles to development for poor countries through trade and market access. What is of monumental significance is his linking of the current unequal relations in trade with the historical impoverishment of underdeveloped countries. Like the late, great Dr. Walter Rodney, he laid the blame for such underdevelopment squarely at the feet of “European nations and their North American cousins”.

All black people of pride the world over, cannot but admire Dr. Gonsalves bold call for REPARATION.

“This is an occasion for historical reclamation and the righting of historical wrongs”.

We can only hail his courage in proclaiming before the world’s leaders that: “The trade in, and enslavement of, Africans, was a monstrous crime against humanity an exercise in genocide unmatched in the history of the modern world.”

Having staked our claims on the world’s stage, Dr. Gonsalves must not be left on a limb. We all, in SVG and the Caribbean, in North America and Africa, wherever we are on the planet earth, must let it be known that we too endorse his statements. Some of us may have reservations on whether reparation is practicable, whether it will ever come, but that is not the issue, we, more than the Jews or the Koreans or the Chinese, were victims of genocide. The principle of reparation is a just one which we cannot deny. Will our Opposition in parliament support the charge of GENOCIDE and the principle of REPARATION?

Next year, 2007, marks the bicentenary of the passing of the law abolishing the transatlantic trade in African slaves. It is not just an occasion for Dr. Gonsalves, or Rastafarians alone, it is for ALL OF US to commemorate. Government and Opposition, Church and Trade Union, Business sector and Social Sector, Farmers and Fisherfolk, Women, Youth and Children.

Let us all heed the call!