Full Disclosure
July 31, 2008
Emancipation

Arguably, the most decisive landmark in the history of the British West Indies is emancipation in 1834. The passage of the Emancipation Act represented a formal acknowledgement that slavery as it was practiced was to be rendered illegal. Consequently, it was the first legal opportunity to begin the evolution of a society around notions of freedom. In other words, the genesis of a post colonial economy was to find its birth place in this period.{{more}}

For the freedman it meant a new beginning, a start of an era of hope, yet confusion. In reflection however, we must take the time to honour our brothers and sisters who would have fought selflessly, dedicating their lives in many instances to the fight for freedom. It is this persistent sense of purpose which resided in our fore parents, which must activate our courage today, as we endeavour on a path of national reconstruction.

As a people we are at the critical stage where we must readily clinch to the ideals which seek to manage a transition from a colonial to a postcolonial economy. Our policy makers must at all times be directed by ambitions to transform our economy into one which is competitive in the modern global environment in which we operate. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is by far not a nation of empty changes. It is in like manner, that we must continue the process of charting a course which will further cement the gains of our political independence as a small nation state, and at the same time strengthen the chords of our economic interdependency. This movement must from time to time reflect on the genesis of its development which is signposted by the culmination of the struggles which led to emancipation in 1834.

As our state continues to mature politically, our quest for positive changes will be deepened. The onus is therefore on our citizens to use the avenues opened to us to most constructively assess the policies proposed by our policy makers, in a bid to create the fittest construct for the betterment of all Vincentians.

The majority of our population is comprised of youth. The role to be assumed by us will have an invaluable impact on both the macro and micro societal issues which today are arresting national attention. Our nation’s children and youth have been afforded the right to Universal Access to education. This in itself will help to reduce the disparities of wealth and power by providing our youth with skills to enable them to find a valued place in society. The immediate task that remains is to build our youth product as far as humanly possible, so that our intellect, skills, aptitudes, vision, cultural awareness, energy, commitment and health will enable us to spearhead any effort to address issues of poverty alleviation and allow us to grapple with the many changes which we will have to face. It is therefore imperative that we change with the changing times.

It is established that a body of youth receptive to admonition may very well be in the best position to define social change. This is based on the relative advantage of our youth to engage the social imagination of our times and in so doing contribute to bridging the generational gap which surfaces in various sectors of our society. There is an immediate urgency.

When States began to function as politically independent and sovereign entities, they realized that one of the most important attributes of state sovereignty was economic sovereignty. It was viewed and rightly so, that without economic sovereignty, that political sovereignty was incomplete. Asserting economic sovereignty meant having control over the economic activities of both domestic and foreign entities with which relations were created. These included the domestic level relations between the private sector and government, and on the international level the relation between foreign investment and the state, and the government. The advancement of a strong and independent foreign policy is dependent on full sovereignty over ones natural resources, and the freedom to associate with foreign States as a government so desires in the interest of its people. The Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States 1974 Chapter 11 states, “Every state has the sovereign and inalienable right to choose it economic system as well as its political, social and cultural system in accordance with the will of its people, without outside interference, coercion or threat in any form whatsoever.” From a close analysis of the foreign policies adapted by the present government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines it is clear that our actions fall within the of the ambit or parameter of the Charter. What haunts some of our leaders is that their way of thinking is locked into a colonial experience which is proving to have more deep-rooted carves than we could ever imagine.

There is no real evidence that physical emancipation in 1834 materially assisted in changing the exploitative expansionist policies of pre-1834 Europe. What is clear, however, is that the principles which presently guide the foreign policies of the former colonizers, have merely adopted new shades of the same colour, and in some instances, new forms of perpetuating old evils in a more refined grade.

From time to time we in these parts are left in the mist when it comes to our anticipation of receiving excellent prospects from international trade negotiations. We can only stand as a collective regional force, and even the strength of such a consolidation as a bargaining agent would be tested and hopefully not to the point of fatality.

In 2008, as we celebrate another Emancipation month, let us see it as a moment whereby we ought to reflect on our past with the intention to be encouraged to face the evolving challenges of the future.