The other side of Independence
Dr. Fraser- Point of View
October 13, 2023

The other side of Independence

We are about two weeks from the 44th anniversary of our Independence and we are preparing to celebrate it in real Vincy style. True enough, we are no longer a colony of Britain, but we seem to exist by the mercies of many from whom we beg and to whom we seem prepared to curry favour.

October 27 will assume its accustomed posture. The national colours will be displayed high and low on garments, on vehicles, on business places and elsewhere. Our nation’s flags will be seen everywhere. We will stand proudly for the National Anthem. “The lovely Grenadines” will perhaps remain our “little sister islands”, gems or not. Big speeches will be made, and even bigger promises given. We will simply be going through our rite of passage, even as we profess to be already an adult.

But what is the reality? We are on the verge of reaching a record high murder rate. Today we have so far reached 41, one short of last year’s record. I had been part of many panel discussions in 1979 as we prepared for Independence and was highly critical of an approach that suggested that one of the good things about becoming independent and joining the United Nations was that we would be open to opportunities to get more aid from different countries. Issues of discipline, responsibility and productivity were not generally part of the narrative. It is as though we were in a dream land. Instead of being at the mercy of our then colonial master, the rest of the world would be open to us.

How were we supposed to build a nation? What were our responsibilities? What was to follow colonialism? While the informal National Independence Committee set about framing aspects of a new constitution, those in charge of our political affairs sought an easier part. They simply took what their political masters were prepared to give them, a watered-down version of their Westminster constitution that was ill-suited for us. One that, given our population and culture, produced what Selwyn Ryan referred to as “The Winner Takes All.” We attempted to bring about constitutional reform but in the wrong way.

What has 44 years of independence meant to us or brought to us? A divided society, high unemployment, unacceptably large poverty, leadership that is not accountable, that borders on being dictatorial; a people who see their leaders as persons responsible for providing handouts. True enough, we consider ourselves a democratic country by the fact that we have elections every five years or shorter depending on the dictates of those in charge. We elect people to parliament to control our affairs, but then they assume power that they use to control us. We are their servants, not their masters.

Statistics are hard to come by. We are not even sure about the size of our population. There is a high rate of migration as the younger people seek greener pastures elsewhere, even within the region. We are considered one of the poorest countries in CARICOM. What has brought us to this stage calls for a longer and larger conversation but one that is needed. Our education system needs a real revolution for while our literacy rate is probably high in terms of the ability to read and write, so much more is needed. Foreign Investors coming to our country complain about the lack of skilled people and so bring workers from elsewhere. Our comprehension, understanding of our society, of the region and the global community leave a lot to be desired. We are divided politically, and politics runs everything. There is no sane national dialogue, instead we shout and curse. When conflicts arise, we run for our weapons.

There has been growth in material things, cars in particular. Almost everyone has a cell phone. The same can, however, be said for those remaining colonies of Britain. Remittances are a major contributor to our country as relatives and friends living abroad assist in meeting our shortfalls. Our Diaspora is therefore playing a major role in meeting our needs. The crowds at MoneyGram and Western Union toward the end of the month tell their own story. This really keeps us going.

The reality is that October will be a month of celebration. Something was achieved on October 27, 1979. It was a milestone, and hopefully a stage in our development as a people. The hopes and ambitions of our people who were saved from enslavement in 1838 should be part of our mindset as we move forward with our own dreams and aspirations as we try to find space in the global community. Although hardly openly expressed, but in our subconscious was the desire to build a better society. Our calypsonians have often reminded us that we need to build a society. Have we been thinking about it and reflecting on the path we have been taking? It’s never too late. We need to break down the divisions and take control. Forty years have passed since we were supposed to have taken control. We must wake up! Let us celebrate Independence but remember there is work to be done for there is another side that we have neglected.


  • Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian