August 6, 2013

More leadership, governmental support needed

Tue Aug 6, 2013

Several opinions have been expressed in the media, both in print and on air, on the relative lack of emphasis on the commemoration of Emancipation Day. These include comments by SEARCHLIGHT’s leading columnists on the matter, lamenting the fact that we are still to get out of the August Monday holiday mode and focus on the real significance of Emancipation.{{more}}

These views reflect the concern of sections of our society and inevitably fingers are pointed in the direction of the Government for the failure to lift Emancipation Day above the festive plane. The ULP government, in turn, may tend to feel that any such criticism is unfair, given its own role in initiating the change-over of the holiday from the first Monday in August to August 1, Emancipation Day.

That fact cannot be denied, nor the credit for responding to the long-standing demand from sections of the popular movement for a return to Emancipation Day focus, taken away from the Gonsalves’ administration. But in so doing, it certainly whetted appetites for a deepening of the process, and in that regard, one can only record disappointment. There has not been the kind of follow-up, the leadership, nor the emphasis on making Emancipation Day as relevant as it ought to be.

Of course, civil society organisations, and our people as a whole, have not stepped up to the plate either. One cannot say that there has been any great pressure exerted on the Government, even as we say, “to put its money where its mouth lies”, to provide funding for activities appropriate for the occasion. So, one can only admit to collective blame.

St Vincent and the Grenadines is not unique in this respect, for except for a few cases, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Barbados and Jamaica to different degrees, the level of commemoration of such a landmark in our history is far from satisfactory. This is in spite of our common experience of slavery and predominant populations of African descent. All through the Caribbean there is inadequate government support for Emancipation activities.

It is easy to call for a change in that approach, but the solution lies in a much more fundamental approach. It involves our very education system, formal and informal, the role of the media, and starting from the very young. All Caribbean governments either own, or have significant influence on sections of the media and are therefore well placed to take initiatives in this regard. Governments can, and should also provide resources to ensure that activities to mark this august day in a suitable manner. Positive action in this direction is urgently needed.