The past ten days have been quite eventful with the International Garifuna Conference preceding the March 14 holiday and the judgement handed down in the case involving public servants who were dismissed from their jobs. Some people who were eagerly awaiting an announcement about new national heroes were told that no final decision has been made about the four persons identified. Meanwhile the matter of the fate of Balliceaux has again resurfaced after having been advertised for sale many years ago.
The judgement handed down by High Court Judge Esco Henry, according to news reports, described the vaccine mandate as “unlawful, unconstitutional and void”. The government had soon after indicated that they were going to appeal against the High Court Judgement. Based on what had been happening in the past that decision to appeal should not have come as a surprise. For one, the judgement sounds like one handed down against a dictatorial government, so it was necessary to appeal it, hoping it will be overturned. But one wonders about the possibility of that appeal being successful. The move to an appeal means that those public servants who were denied an income over the months they had been fired, would continue to suffer. As one reflects on the matter questions must be raised about the manner in which the issue was handled, some of the victims having been told that their services were no longer required and were dismissed from their jobs without any consultation with them. So much has in recent years emerged about the vaccines that the personal preferences of the victims not to take the vaccine should not have been scoffed at. We await further developments, hoping that the matter will be resolved as soon as possible and the “dismissed” workers be able to restart their lives.
In the Searchlight’s editorial of March 10, the Editor stated, “we need to do more to ensure that there is greater understanding of Chatoyer’s heroic role and that he be appropriately honoured. Instead of bickering among ourselves as to who else should join him in the exalted position, should we not be expending our efforts on a proper National Memorial for Chatoyer? A more meaningful programme to allow our people to properly appreciate the significance of March 14 and the role of the Garifuna in both defending our country as well as delaying the full imposition of slavery in our country, seems to be of higher priority.”
I strongly endorse those sentiments. In fact, I have for long been making that point. Let us have a proper national memorial and put emphasis on getting our people to understand the significance of March 14. Admittedly the Garifuna Heritage Foundation has been having annual conferences, but the same faces turn up every year and few of the descendants of the indigenous people bother to attend. Is the location a problem? In any event some efforts should be made to take the information to the area above the river. People are still saying that they doubt Chatoyer existed because there are no families in SVG called Chatoyer. The answer to this is very simple, so a lot of work needs to be done. There was no challenge to the naming of Chatoyer as the First National Hero. For one not many people knew he was but to be told of his heroic role in defending the country was enough to convince the majority of Vincentians.
This will not be so with the four persons being considered. I notice that Jomo Thomas was on to this in his last article, suggesting that the Honourable Milton Cato be removed from consideration. I have been for sometime making a case against Cato, describing his tenure as First Premier and Prime Minister as possibly the most repressive in this country, post 1951. But let us forget all of this for now and give meaning to Chatoyer as our first National Hero.
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian