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Then they came for Paul and Ann!

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“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Quite often, I reflect on this poem by Martin Niemoller and its relevance today. Niemoller was a German pastor who, it appeared, actually sympathized with the Nazis in the early years. This poem was his way of reminiscing on the brutalities of the Holocaust. He seemed to have targeted the cowardice of the Church and of German intellectuals in the whole affair.{{more}}

Recent developments involving Paul ‘I-Madd’ Scrubb, Ann Joshua and before them, people such as Bigger Biggs and Otto Sam, to name a few, show that the net is widening. Apart from a few, there is not a great deal of serious commentary on these issues. It is as if they don’t matter; as if it is the natural order of things. Some of what is happening makes little sense to me. I -Madd Scrubb is apparently charged for ‘uttering seditious words’. The charge stems, I am told, from his allegedly uttering of a threat against the Prime Minister and his family on December 9 and 31, 2015. Scrubb came into the country around the time of Carnival and spent five weeks, only to be arrested at the airport on his attempt to return to the US where he resides. The threat, based on the allegations, should have prompted the relevant authorities to arrest him on his arrival, when, to follow their logic, the threat would have been real. But he is, instead, arrested as he was leaving the country.

I don’t know the details of the matter and what precisely was uttered. This matter will obviously be fought in court, but the circumstances leading to his arrest are almost comical, had it not been for the seriousness of the charges laid. The prosecution has asked for three months to put its case together. This is, for a matter from December 2015. In the meantime, Scrubb’s travel documents have been taken away and he has to remain here until October to know if they really have a case against him. In the meantime, he will lose his job and be unable to meet his commitments and to exercise his responsibilities. The question is what happens to him if they are unable to come up with any serious case, or to win their case?

Can any of our poets replicate the sentiments of Niemoller? Then, there is Ann Joshua. I always found that her rental was extremely high. A small hotel operating in a country where the number of stay-over visitors is alarmingly low! I know too, that at Christmas, because of the location of the Nine Mornings activities and at Carnival, where the Bay Street is the focus of entertainment, visitors, unless they are involved in both festivities, would avoid going there. I am not sure about recent developments, but I find it maddening that the operator of a hotel for 30 years would be given two months to surrender her business. There obviously would have been financial commitments to service the maintenance of the hotel, severance to be paid to workers, some of whom were there for a long time. I suspect that the Cobblestone has a relatively large number of repeat visitors who would have been attracted by the hospitality of the place, attributed, of course, to management. Most likely, there are those who would have made bookings for the rest of the year. How are these to be satisfied in two months?

In SVG we operate like ‘crazy people’ and it is not difficult arriving at the conclusion that the wrong people are often put at the Mental Hospital. But this is a country gone crazy and a lot of us should really be patients at Orange Hill. It is as if we exist in ‘Zombieland’. We operate as if what goes on around us doesn’t matter, at least until they begin to touch us and our families.

Our voices should really be heard, but they cannot be heard if they are not uttered. At this point the issue of right or wrong isn’t what is at stake. Often, we criticize before we are provided with the facts or rather know the many sides of the story. What happens when we begin to ask questions and to be critical of what we consider misgivings is that the truth will emerge as ideas contend. The public will be better acquainted with the matters in dispute and the society would have grown.

Today it is Paul and Ann, in the same way that there were others before, like Bigger Biggs, Otto Sam and the three teachers. The question is who next! Let me say that this is not to condone wrong, for those who have committed wrong will have to bear the consequences, but let there be a fair application. Remember that Ames left legally. If Paul had been forewarned, he might have been able to leave legally.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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