Front Page
October 29, 2004

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has said that there is more work which remains to be done especially to reduce poverty further, to create more quality jobs, and to curb criminal activities.”

The Prime Minister in scholarly fashion, retraced this country’s history in a half-hour address, delivered at a Military Parade to mark this country’s 25th Independence Anniversary Wednesday. {{more}}Dr. Gonsalves, speaking before a massive audience at the Arnos Vale Sporting Complex, referred to his own history as part of the left wing Youlou United Liberation Movement (YULIMO) and United People’s Movement (UPM) and noted that “interestingly, the combined vote of Milton Cato’s Labour Party and the pro-independence, but opposition, UPM exceeded 70 per cent in the general elections in December 1979.”

Dr. Gonsalves recalled the ills and benefits of the colonial period.

“That colonial violence resulted in widespread genocide against the Callinagoes and Garifuna, our indigenous forebears, and in the cruel enslavement of African peoples who were forcibly brought to the land we know as St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he stated.

He went on: “It is not that our former colonial masters were homicidal maniacs, intrinsically evil or devoid of any sense of morality or humanity whatsoever. It is that expansionist mercantile capitalism and economic imperialism turned nominally Christian people into an unrecognizable other.”

Dr. Gonsalves said we were not asking for “reparations, but surely an apologetic admission of past wrong-doing by former colonial rulers coupled with an on-going commitment of genuine partnership, based on fairness, equity, and a preferential treatment towards us, would be of immense value in helping to cleanse the dark deeds of the past.”

He pointed out that there are benefits from the colonial period which we have to build on “Colonialism, of course, was not all underdevelopment, evil, public amorality, official violence, and subjugation” Dr. Gonsalves pointed out. He referred to the English language; sound public service, a quality judicial system, a broadly democratic system of government, and a bundle of fundamental rights and freedoms, which are protected in law, as legacies of our past. “These are inheritances which we must use, not misuse or abuse, to advance our freedom, good governance, living and production, and our civilisation itself. We must nurture these, consolidate them, build upon them, and extend them in the interest of our own humanisation,” the Prime Minister went on.

He said that the citizens, survivors of whatever aspects of oppression from colonialism, have to come to grips with our present situation.

“We as Vincentians are required to take up our beds and walk. The incubus and legacy of colonialism still reside among us and against which we must battle daily with clarity of thought and expression, and a solid performance of deeds, at individual and national levels. Our vision, our philosophy, our policies, our programmes, our actions, singly and jointly, must propel us away from the past condition through our contemporary challenges to a noble and uplifting future which, of all time only, is ours to desecrate,” the Prime Minister said.

He noted the nation’s foundation on hard work, discipline and commitment from past generations, but noted that we still have to expand on that platform.

He highlighted achievements over 25 years of Independence, such as “governance, education and training, social and material well-being, culture and the arts, health and housing, sports and recreation, life and production.”

According to Dr. Gonsalves, the nation “is a middle-level developing country, which scores reasonably well on the internationally-constructed index on human development.”

In was in this vein that he urged the nation to move forward to do more and achieve more.

The work towards building this nation began even before 1979, and the twenty-eight years between Universal Adult Suffrage in 1951 and independence in 1979 were also alluded to.

He spoke of “giant steps in the forward march to progress, material and otherwise, from relative backwardness to modernity.”

George Augustus Mc Intosh was cited for his role in the uprising of October 21, 1935 as were the contributions of the country’s first Chief Minister Ebenezer Theodore Joshua, and first Premier and Prime Minister Robert Milton Cato .

Former Prime Ministers Sir James Mitchell and Arnhim Eustace were also praised.

And as the fourth Prime Minister, Dr Gonsalves pledged to uphold “ennobling precepts and ideals, which our Founding Fathers have bequeathed unto us.”

He said his duty was to complete the tasks of earlier generations; to construct a modern, diversified and prosperous economy in the age of globalisation; to lead a frontal assault on poverty; to deepen political democracy and strengthen good governance; to rekindle and promote a solid value system; and to further ennoble our Caribbean civilisation in all its dimensions, including the deepening of Caribbean unity.

Whatever the progress however, Dr. Gonsalves warned against political division.

“We need to heal our fractured nation, promote oneness and love among our people, and bind inextricably our nation which is at home to that in the Diaspora,” he said.

“Our nation has faced immense challenges not of our own making, but we have met them with focus, fortitude, determination, and reasonable success,” he pointed out.

September 11, 2001 terrorists strike on the United States of America, the SARS epidemic, Lili in September 2002, a four-month drought 2003, the war in Iraq, increased oil prices since December 2003 combined to create an overall impact. Then Hurricane Ivan in 2004, caused damage and loss in excess of $110 million.

“The nation has rallied magnificently and, despite the occasional dissonance as is expected in a competitive democracy, our country has progressed in remarkable unity and consensus, fully respecting but not succumbing to minority voices which oft-times seek to derail or ignobly divert our national effort,” he pointed out.

Dr. Gonsalves commended the nation for steadfastness and predicted that the economy will “grow in excess of 5.5 per cent in 2004.”

But he thinks better can be done.

“A small island developing nation like St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in an increasingly hostile global political economy, cannot tarry. We cannot waste time. Redoubling our efforts is desirable and we need more than ever to push ourselves as individuals and nations to the limits of our focused efforts,” the Prime Minister outlined.

He pointed to aspects of ongoing development, and said that: “Never has so much sustained progress been made in so short a time as has been the case in St. Vincent and the Grenadines over the past three years.”

For Dr. Gonsalves “Our nation is politically stable; good governance prevails; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines is among the safest, freest and most democratic countries in the world.”

Dr. Gonsalves kept up his war on criminal elements.

“I am sure that in this we will succeed. We will curb the violent crimes,” he said.

Parts of his address were not new. But Dr. Gonsalves is not going to be overtaken by: “learned helplessness.”

He exhorted the nation in a quotation from the bible.

“Whoever watches the wind will not plant. Whoever looks at the cloud will not reap…

“Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.”

He predicts, SVG in the next 25 years will be “a much better place because of what we are doing today, what we will be doing tomorrow, and the day after. We would be in a worse position only if we change our course of governance, alter the navigation, become slack and unfocussed in our work habits, and allow the criminals, especially the violent ones, space to flourish.”