by Dr. Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves Prime Minister, St Vincent and the Grenadines
ON OCTOBER 27, 2022, St. Vincent and the Grenadines celebrates and commemorates the forty-third anniversary of its reclamation of independence from the British.
In 1763 the British colonialists, without invitation or consent from our Callinago and Garifuna forbears, assumed suzerainty of our country and commenced the consolidation of their conquest and settlement of exploitation. For the succeeding 216 years, save and except for a four-year period of occupation by France between 1779 and 1783, British colonialism ruled the political roost in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. During this time, the British remade St. Vincent and the Grenadines in terms of its population mix, economic structures and relations, and political institutions: Large scale genocide and forced deportations of the indigenous Callinago and Garifuna people; the importation, between 1764 and 1807, of over 55,000 enslaved African bodies; the further importation of over 5,000 indentured servants (Portuguese from Madeira, “Free” Africans, Indians) at various periods between 1845 and 1880; a comparatively small number of Anglo-Saxon arrivants from Britain and elsewhere; the swift incorporation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines into the vortex of global capitalism; and the evolution over time of a bundle of political institutions from pure Crown Colony government to a bastardised version of the Westminster – Whitehall model.
Undoubtedly, huge legacies of underdevelopment arising from colonial over-rule persist in, and shackle mightily the sustainable development of, modern-day St.Vincent and the Grenadines. These terrible legacies and the limitations or weaknesses of our small-island economy and adverse impacts of climate change, severely hamper our nation’s overall development. The commission of native genocide and the enslavement of African bodies have prompted the legitimate demand by the Caribbean Community, including St.
Vincent and the Grenadines, for reparations from the coloniser country.
The theme for Independence Day, 2022, focusses on our people’s resilience and fortitude.
This thematic emphasis is apt given the extraordinary challenges of the past 2½ years consequent upon the COVID-19 pandemic of March 2020 and continuing, the volcanic eruptions of April 2021, Hurricane Elsa of July 2, 2021, and the knock-on effects of the continuing and exacerbated global turmoil, inclusive of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine initiated on February 24, 2022.
Objective assessments of the responses by the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to these extreme challenges have concluded that commendations are in order.
Through bilateral and multilateral cooperation, the government has secured appropriate solidarity for immediate humanitarian and social safety net supports in addition to material resources for worthwhile capital projects in pursuance of sustainable development, inclusive of building a modern, competitive, many-sided post-colonial economy. Moreover, from its own resources, and in partnership with the private sector, the government has been a catalyst in accelerating socio-economic development. Further, and most importantly, the government, in communion with the people and non-governmental organisation, has led the way in pursuit of a path of inclusive development consistent with equity and the ethical principles of fairness, justice, responsibility, and responsiveness.
In the deep valley of convulsions, dislocation, and even despair, our people’s resilience, fortitude, and fresh hope were summoned in aid of recovery and rebuilding. As we climb out of this treacherous valley onto the mountain of achievement, the evidence of much better times is at hand. This year, 2022, the economy will grow by 5 percent; next year, 2023, economic growth is projected at 6 percent; and in 2024, economic growth of 4.8 percent is forecast. Our material well-being is on the mend.
Before our very eyes, advances are being made in vital areas such as: agriculture and fisheries; hotel development; the construction of a modern port; sea defences and river defences; school rehabilitation and construction; the building of a modern hospital; housing and community amenities; roads and bridges; renewable energy, telecommunications, and water; the creative arts; sports and recreation; strengthening democracy, good governance, and the judicial system; and regional integration.
The government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are now at a time of RESPAIR — an embrace of fresh hope after a period of immense difficulties for our nation. This fresh hope is conjoined with an abiding faith made manifest in works and an unbreakable love for our country — a love that looks on tempests and is never shaken. In all this the following will see us to victory: our resilience, our existential spirit to triumph over seemingly impossible odds; our hard and smart works; our strength of commitment to bedrock values of upliftment; and our reaffirmation that this nation is founded on the belief in the supremacy of God and the freedom and dignity of man and woman. Morning by morning new mercies we see!
Great is His faithfulness!
Happy 43rd anniversary of independence, SVG!