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As a region, are we better for having chosen Independence?

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Fri, Oct 26, 2012

Federation vs. Independence

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College (SVGCC) is holding amalgamated celebrations for our Country’s Independence for the very first time.

As part of our institution’s grand Independence celebrations, we invited students from all four divisions of the College to participate in an Essay Writing Competition, with a word limit of 500 to 750 words on the topic: “Federation Versus Independence: As a Region are We Better For Having Chosen Independence?”{{more}}

Among the inspiring entries, one piece stood out. It was written by Joselle A. Mofford – a student at the Division of Teacher Education.

On behalf of the entire SVGCC family, we say congratulations to Joselle, and to all entrants.

by Joselle A. Mofford

As stipulated by dictionary.com, federation is defined as the act of bonding under a central government or authority, and the formation of a political unity with a central government by a number of states, (in our case regions) in which each has control of its own internal affairs. Federation was introduced by the British as a way of uniting the regions. It did not last. Independence, on the other hand, is the state or eminence of one being self-governing, which is the freedom from control, influence, and support. To determine whether, as a region, we are better off being independent as opposed to still being under federation, one has to consider the benefits that can be gained from each. In my opinion, as a region we are indeed better off being independent and having control of our affairs.

According to a CARICOM (2011) article, “The West Indies Federation 1957-62” federation was established in 1958 under the British Caribbean Federation Act of 1956 in an effort to promote political union among the ten countries of Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, and St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla as it was called at the time. However, it only lasted four years, coming to an end in 1962. The collapse of the federation was brought about when Jamaica left, which then led to Trinidad & Tobago withdrawing from the federation as well. This was in light of the fact that there was non-acceptance of unrestricted movements and the binding of customs union. After the fall of the federation, the region then pushed for independence, with Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago gaining independence in 1962, Barbados in 1966, Grenada in 1974, Dominica in 1978, St Vincent & the Grenadines and St Lucia in 1979, Antigua & Barbuda in 1981, and St Kitts & Nevis in 1983.

History shows that federation of the region still meant that Britain still had control in the decision-making process in the region event though these countries were self-governed in dealing with their internal affairs. Therefore, it meant that the implementation of policies by Britain was possible, which could have been detrimental to the progress of the region. For instance, the issue of imposing direct taxation was faced with controversy in terms of how it should be imposed among the members of the region. Also, the federation had to be in existence for five years before taxation could be enforced. Although the federation brought to life federal institutions, supportive structures and increased opportunities for education, it met with difficulties such as the regional government’s reluctance to surrender their power to the federal government. Additionally, federation of any member of the region would mean that that member would be supported by the federal systems.

Although federation could have led to optimum utilization of resources that the first world countries have, and financial aid benefits to help in the movement of infrastructure, health care, education and other important aspects within those countries, by choosing independence, it meant that each member of the region now had power of its own; decisions could now be taken to correct issues that directly affected any of the members; and members could make their own laws, such as trade laws, to govern themselves. Also, they gained recognition and acknowledgement by countries outside the region. Even though their resources as well as finances were limited at the time of gaining independence, they struggled to rise to the occasion through aid from the federation. Although there may be drawbacks in being an independent country (including finances for education, health, and overcoming poverty), there are far better dealt with than under the federation system.

A federation among the islands in the region surely has its merits, but the desire for autonomy, self-identity, self-actualization as an independent nation tends to lead to “going it alone”, not as a union. Therefore, we are better off as independent nations, as this means we can stand and fight for our own, deal with our own internal and external affairs, make legislation which will deal with our unique circumstances, and establish relationships with any country that we as nations desire, as opposed to if we were still under federation which restricted our decision-making ability. The question is, “Who better to care for us than us?” Hence, I stand firm on my belief that we benefit more as independent nations, not a federated region.

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