Behold the Vincy Unity Picnic!
There is certainly never a dull moment with us. Why do we, as Vincentians, always have to create difficulties in situations that can be handled simply without controversy? I refer here to the matter that has been hitting social media and the airwaves, that is, the refusal to allow Dr Godwin Friday to address the gathering of Vincentians and friends at the 1000 Island Annual Vincy Unity Picnic, held last Saturday. This issue first came to my attention when I saw a posting by Elma Gabriel-Mayers, who regarded it as shameful that the three SVG Canadian registered organizations refused to allow the Leader of the Opposition the opportunity to bring greetings to the gathering at 1000 Island, while accommodating the Minister of Health. She even stressed the point that the organizations in question claimed to be non-political and considered it a sad day when their picnic had come to that pitiful stage. I must compliment her on her principled position.
Admittedly, I do not know how the picnic is run, but the whole thing strikes me as being petty. An invitation, I suspect might have been sent to the Government to have a representative at the picnic and to bring greetings. A request, apparently made by an individual who is or used to be involved in the Vincentian organizations, for the Leader of the Opposition to address the gathering was refused, based on a vote held among the organizers. Why did it have to come to that! How absurd! You really had to vote on that? How democratic!
I am assuming that Dr Friday was simply going to bring greetings to the Vincentians gathered there. The picnic, dubbed the annual Vincy Unity Picnic, as seen in their advertisements, was to bring together Vincentians of all persuasions in a spirit of unity. Why was there a problem allowing the Leader of the Opposition to make brief remarks? This would have sent a signal and reminded the gathering that they were one people and must get over their petty differences. The person who represented the Government, although a Minister, is not an elected Member of Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition has been an elected member of Parliament since 2001 and in terms of protocol precedence, comes after the Governor General, Prime Minister and Speaker of the House. Why do we have to create controversy out of a situation that simply does not warrant it? This is likely to create problems in the future for a function that I gather normally attracts quite a number of Vincentians, including persons from SVG, who travel to Toronto for the occasion. A sad occasion indeed!
On a related matter, there has been some discussion about the role of the consul general. I am not sure what role he plays, if any, in the organization and running of the picnic; but what must always be borne in mind is that his position is not one of a party political functionary, but one to serve the needs of the government and people in the area where his position extends. Even if not informed beforehand and an official at the level of the Leader of the Opposition is in place, the necessary courtesies should be extended to him/her. One is placed in those positions to serve Vincentians and this must always be remembered. In another few months, we will be celebrating 38 years as an independent nation. Come on, it is time for us to stop this nonsense and grow up as a people.
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian