Dr. Fraser- Point of View
November 8, 2013
Kenny Anthony bells the cat

It had to be done at some time, since the region is in need of an honest reality check. Now Dr Kenny Anthony of St Lucia has at last spoken out. This is no opportunistic Opposition politician trying to score political points, nor for that matter an armchair academic viewing the world from his desk.{{more}}

He is a politician who is in the thick of things and might even be guilty of some of the things he is deriding. At an address at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, where he spoke to academics and students, many of them St Lucians, he berated his CARICOM colleagues for participating in acts of self- denial while their countries are on the brink of economic collapse. So caught up are they with the mendicancy “sweeping” the Caribbean, he states, that they become locked into their own agenda and pay scant attention to possible Caribbean solutions. He reminded or perhaps challenged his colleagues about the hard decisions that needed to be made.
He seemed so particularly focused on the issue of mendicancy that one suspects that he is pointing figurative fingers. He is of the view that “they have created an elaborate system of mendicancy at the highest levels of decision making, percolating right into the political system at the lowest level and if you want symptoms of what I am talking about, these days you have to pay people to want to vote for you…The irritating circumstance of this is that some politicians capitulate and it becomes a habit.” He clearly misspeaks when he suggests that some politicians capitulate and that it becomes a habit. It is the politicians who have created this. They don’t capitulate; they welcome it, since this is what keeps some of them in positions of power. The evidence is there for all to see.

In my column last week, I made the point that we Caribbean people, and in this regard I singled out Vincentians, decry begging on the streets, but are silent about begging at the official level. Anthony, from where he sits, or stands, sees it. No country can advance without serious attention being paid to the productive sector. We do not have our purpose and priorities right. Take for instance the treatment of “Bigger Bigs,” whom I believe was employing about fifty or sixty persons. We need, particularly in these hard economic times, to encourage local investment and facilitate those with entrepreneurial skills. Failure to do this leaves us with no option but to beg and of course, some of us have become skilled in this and make it an art to be glorified. When our “big boys” return from their trips abroad they triumphantly tell us what they got for us and we like that. We clap!

It would be interesting to know the circumstances that have forced Dr Anthony to be so blunt and to take off the self-denial cloak that our Caribbean leaders have been wearing. The answer could be frightening, for it might be as he is quoted to have said that “some Caribbean countries are near the brink of collapse”. The governments, he is suggesting, are burying their heads in the sand and creating the impression that all is well. But to compound matters the St Lucian Prime Minister has had to admit that in the region “we don’t like frank talk. We don’t like open talk. We don’t like honest talk.” Certainly, our leaders have nursed this malady. Anyone who is prepared to be frank and honest in his/her assessment of the way things are done in the Caribbean immediately becomes a pariah.
I do not say this idly. I know what I am talking about and would at some point tell my story. If Dr Anthony is serious about what he is saying, he needs not only to address these issues at a University campus. He has to have serious dialogue with his colleagues, for the sentiments he has expressed are giving the impression that we are grasping at our last straw. When some of us voice concerns similar to those that are expressed by Dr Anthony, we are abused, especially by the sycophants who occupy talk radio. It is becoming clear that the chickens are coming home to roost, but some of us are simply content to be happy with our cheer- leading roles. We are afraid to do otherwise.

The political actors are full of empty rhetoric designed to camouflage the serious situation and to provide talking points and sound bites to the faithful and the mendicants who depend on political patronage for their survival. But, happily, the realities of things on the ground are beginning to lift the consciousness of many of our people. Even when assistance is given to us, we don’t know what to do with it. We have made a mess of the EPA, which we should not have signed in the first place. Our minds still need to be emancipated and decolonised. Our colonisers gave us legal freedom at emancipation and allowed us a flag, national anthem and constitution at independence, but they kept control of our minds and this is a major part of our problem. It appears that the more educated we are, the more we become dependent, since re-colonisation of the mind is today’s reality. As I have been suggesting, our nation is full of cheer- leaders who, as Gordon Lewis would say, are part of the audience that occupy the darkened theatre and are so glad to applaud when asked to. Anthony has really provided us with a sad commentary on the state of governance in the region.

  • Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.