Every year at this time we are asked the same question – what have we achieved since Independence? It is a hard question to answer but some persons prattle a lot about; improvement in education, better water and electricity systems, more vehicles on the road, more cell phones, a better standard of living and so on. But are these appropriate answers? Even if we were not Independent, we were likely to have advanced in those areas over 42 years. In our region there are a number of colonies of Britain/ British Overseas Territories- The British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Some of those colonies are among the most prosperous in the region. This is not an argument to remain a colony, what it means is that there must be a better way of making an assessment. That is why I say it is a difficult question to answer.
We benefit greatly because we are among a number of independent countries in the region that have created the OECS and CARICOM. These bodies benefit not only independent countries but also those that are still colonies. All of the colonies, for instance, are part of the Caribbean Examinations Council that has spearheaded changes in education. A number of services offered by these bodies benefit the collective of independent and non-independent countries. I doubt that we have better water and electricity systems than the colonies. So, there must be a different measure of assessment.
Independence means taking control of your own affairs and making your own decisions. But which of us can claim to be independent in that way? Economically we have to follow the dictates of the International Financial Institutions, the IMF, World Bank and so on. They decide on the path we should take. Are we part of those discussions? Well, really, we elect people to do so, but are our views and circumstances part of that discussion. Quite often what we get are the results of decisions taken by Cabinet based on positions taken elsewhere.
I am somewhat amused when I see people on Independence Anniversary Day ‘parading’ in clothes with the colours of our flag and other symbols of Independence. It is good to be proud of whom we are, and of our claim to be one independent people. But there is a lot of hypocrisy involved for it is as if we feel we have to do so. A week after, we return to our divided selves. We lambaste each other for having different views, especially political ones. It becomes worse if you live in the Diaspora. It is as if you are no longer Vincy, but you are the ones who during the eruption went around mobilising support for this country. You are thanked for this and for the remittances you send back monthly, but you must not raise concerns about what is happening in the country.
I have to admit that SVG today is not what I had been anticipating. I have always been an unrepentant advocate for Independence. I was, as a representative of the Teachers Union, on the executive of the National Independence Committee chaired by Henry Williams. We had a different vision of Independence and anticipated people getting together to build the country rather than tearing each other apart. We are virtually at war over the COVID-19 vaccines. Having sane and decent conversations are not on our books. Some of the stories I am hearing are almost unbelievable. A young man who took his first dose of the vaccine was told he shouldn’t have because he would be unable to have children. The young man decided that was it for him; 42 years after Independence this is what is being pushed around! Can we decide that we are seeking the same end and at least talk but agree to disagree if that’s what it comes to!
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian