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Vamos, Ramos. Shoo!

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As a young boy growing up in the fifties, without the benefit of modern communication technology, the occasional opportunity to go to matinee was like a fleeting visit to heaven. In those days, western movies were top of the list. Of course, in our innocence, we could not comprehend the racism contained therein, especially in relation to the native people of North America, the so-called “Indians”, and those who lived south of the border, the Mexicans, along with blacks, naturally.{{more}}

Our lack of understanding led to sometimes twisted interpretations of terms used, especially non-English ones. I always recall the word “vamos”, regularly used by cowboys as they wheeled their horses out of town, often after robbing banks and murdering people. In Spanish, it means “let’s move”, “let’s get out of here”, but some of us began misusing it to mean “go”, “get out”, “shoo”.

For the purposes of this article, I crave the indulgence of readers in permitting me to use that childish version of “vamos”, as I apply it to a seemingly equally childish individual who is causing great embarrassment to his hosts and to the proud Garifuna people.

I speak of the train of unfortunate events set in motion since the announcement by Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace that, should his party win the next election, an NDP government would grant the Garifuna people abroad what he termed as “honorary citizenship”. This opened a can of worms where local politics is concerned, with unfortunate comments on both sides of the political divide. That, we will have to deal with in our run-up to the general elections.

However, as a follow-up to this airy-fairy “honorary citizenship” promise, clearly not well thought-out, the Opposition invited a Garifuna leader, one Wellington Ramos, to visit our shores. A self-touted professor of history and US army veteran, as well as a Garifuna leader, one would have expected Professor Ramos’ visit to lift the Garifuna debate on to a higher, more intelligent plane.

Regrettably, it has turned out to be “anything but….”, and Mr Eustace and his colleagues ought to be asking themselves how did they get into bed with this one. The more Ramos spoke, the deeper into the pit he seemed to be driving his hosts.

First, there was his abuse of our hospitality by making disparaging remarks publicly about Prime Minister Gonsalves, and then arrogantly boasting of his “right” as a Garifuna to insist on “no boundaries” in his public statements. Doesn’t the goodly professor know about the principle of “non-interference” in internal affairs, or does he already consider himself an “honorary citizen”? He went further and allied himself with a particular party, reportedly urging Vincentian voters to make a particular partisan choice in elections.

Now, Ramos, already offside in his play, to use footballing terms, has run completely off the field. He has penned an outrageous, and most embarrassing letter, both in terms of form (for a professor of history) and content, apparently sent to the US State Department and Embassy in Barbados, Amnesty International and Opposition Leader Eustace, among others.

This letter calls for the US government and regional and international organizations to “conduct a thorough investigation” into a set of crude allegations that he claims have been made by persons with whom he spoke during his visit to SVG. Reading the letter itself, one cannot help but wonder about Mr Ramos’ credentials, if not his sanity.

This is a supposed serious academic making grave allegations about our country being “a police state”, “violations of human rights”, “abuse of the Garifuna people”, all based on hearsay, from the people with whom he spoke, and yet expecting serious, credible governments and organizations to respond? In the letter, he even stated that he “met a person in the street and he told me the last election was stolen through the ballot box.” Is this a “professor”? Our late calypsonian ‘professor’ could have done a much better job.

It is most disappointing that such an individual could have been so entertained and feted by our Opposition. It has turned out to be a major embarrassment to them and can only lead to further questioning of the judgement of the Opposition. The record of the Opposition in regard to spurious allegations which are proving unfounded must be of grave concern to us all. After all, this is supposed to be our “alternative government”, the party offered as a choice in the next elections! How safe, how comfortable, do we feel about these worsening lapses?

The NDP appears to have used the regular translation of “vamos” in relation to Professor Ramos, and pinned hopes on him. When I reflect on his actions, forgive me for going back to my childhood and for saying, “VAMOS, RAMOS”, “SHOO”!

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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