October 16, 2009
Welcome home


To all our Vincentian sisters and brothers returning home for our 30th anniversary of Independence, we say a hearty “WELCOME”. Whether the journey is from neighbouring St. Lucia or faraway Australia, whether you are Vincy-born or first or second generation, whether your sojourn overseas is temporary or you are a long-term resident in another land, it matters not. This is your home and we welcome you.{{more}}

The homecoming concept is not unique to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Other neighbouring countries have blazed this path successfully. Indeed only last year Dominica also staged a homecoming to mark its 30th anniversary as well, and others are going down that path. What makes our homecoming special is the context in which it is occurring. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is taking the bold step of seeking to rewrite our Constitution and to fashion our own rules of governance. In spite of all the debate and disagreement, this is a remarkable achievement, which, irrespective of the outcome of the November 25 referendum, will go down in the pages of history.

Vincentians returning home will, therefore, have the added privilege of direct involvement in the national conversation from a first-hand vantage point. Not that Vincentians abroad were left out of the constitutional reform process, for a special feature of that process is that serious efforts were made to involve Vincentians living abroad.

Over the next two weeks, a number of activities have been organised to ensure that those returning or visiting for the event not only enjoy the warmth and hospitality of their homeland but also have the opportunity to make their contribution to national debates on various topics. A Committee to spearhead these activities has been put in place. It has had its critics in terms of its scope and methods of operation. What is essential is that we make provision for the links forged and ideas generated to continue or to be acted on after Homecoming. Too many times hopes are raised only to be dashed when the trail is left to go cold. How can we avoid that pitfall this time?

Over the years, for instance, we have continued to boast that there are more Vincentians living abroad than on home soil. Have we been able to document this in a concrete way, so that in the few embassies and High Commissions we have, there is some official record of numbers? More than the actual numbers, the Vincentian migrant community is a vital national human resource, yet as far as we know, that resource is not documented, making it difficult to even begin to tap what may be our most precious asset, far more valuable than the foreign currency reserves we may hold. When are we going to engage in this task, either alone or, preferably in conjunction with other Caribbean states?

Small states like ours have to make every effort to mobilise and utilize their national resources, particularly when the most precious ones are human. That human capital can be a tremendous force for national development, but it must be properly harnessed and given scope for creative effort. Initiatives originating from these sources must not be viewed with suspicion or even hostility but must be taken on board and evaluated as much as if they had originated in our very bosom. The Vincentian migrant community, with all its intellectual, organisational and financial resources must be embraced and given its rightful place. That will represent the true repatriation, the real homecoming.