As I was preparing to write this column, I received news of the death of one of my favourite calypsonians from Trinidad, Leroy Calliste, the “Black Stalin” who was given an honorary doctorate from The University of the West Indies in 2008.
I particularly liked his calypsos, “Black Man Feeling to Party” and “Bun Dem”. He has made a great contribution to the art form and will for long be remembered by lovers of calypso.
In the very early moments of Christmas 2022, another murder shocked the country. It made the number of murders for the year 41, surpassing the record number of 40 set some years ago. But there was more to come and by Boxing Day it had moved to 42. When this column is read don’t be surprised if it gets past that. SEARCHLIGHT in commenting on the spate of murders for the year stated, “The courts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines were busy during 2022, as men and women from teenagers to elderly appeared to answer to a wide range of criminal offenses. Murder, theft and rape charges were some of the top trending court stories.” I have constantly been raising this issue to keep it on the minds of fellow citizens for we should not get to the stage where we begin to see this as normal and as something over which we have no control.
Someone said some time ago that most of them are drug related as if to suggest that it means that they are beyond our control. The PM said recently that they were cocaine related. All of this might be so, but we have to dig beneath this. What is driving the drug trade and to what extent are we getting hold of the dealers? Have we been able to identify them? This is only one side of the story but what is driving those that are not drug related? Let us also in looking at this remember that there were also a number of other victims who were fortunate enough to have escaped death and there are probably even more than the 42 who lost their lives.
As we welcome a new year, we often hope that things will be better in the new year but hope alone will not make them better. There has to be a national effort, not only by the political authorities, but by the wider society- churches, organised groups, community groups, individuals. What of a National Society to fight crime, incorporating persons from different sections of our community! I firmly believe that unemployment and poverty drive crimes. There has to be a lot of soul searching. It is easy to blame the volcanic eruption and the covid pandemic for many of our problems. Certainly, we cannot discard them but let us at the same time recognise the tremendous amount of support we got from overseas which I have not seen tabulated anywhere.
Let us as we think of 2023 not forget those teachers and public servants who lost their jobs for failing to take the vaccines about which there has been so much controversy. They should not be hung out to dry. They are Vincentians. Some have contributed significantly in the jobs they held, with their expertise and experience . That is still a divisive issue as witnessed a recent physical encounter at Heritage Square, with one person boasting on radio about his physical prowess!
We are still a divided society, possibly two societies, politically and economically. We are indeed a poor country with a mauby economy, but quite often forget that. One of our major problems is that of how we prioritise. We often spend money on things that might glorify a few but are of little consequence to the development and betterment of the country. We still do not demand accountability from those we gave charge of business on our behalf. We have yet to remind them of who is the real boss.
On Sunday we usher in a new year, but little would have changed. Change demands more! We better wake Up!
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian