June 19, 2015
Honorary citizenship for Garifuna firstly concerns Vincentians – TGHF

The Garifuna Heritage Foundation (TGHF) says honorary citizenship or full citizenship for persons from the Garifuna diaspora, first and foremost concerns Vincentians as current holders of this sacred birthright.

And whilst it considers it significant that issues affecting the Garifuna heritage and culture are being debated in St Vincent and the Grenadines, TGHF notes,{{more}} with concern, “the negativity emanating from some elements of the current discussions on the issue of Honorary Citizenship for Garifuna in the Diaspora.”

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the locally based TGHF said the issue of honorary citizenship or full citizenship of Garifuna from the diaspora in St Vincent and the Grenadines is not one that was ventilated by the delegates during discussions at the two International Garifuna Conferences held here in SVG in 2012 and 2015.

“That being said, it does not exclude its consideration at any point in time, although it is an issue that is delicate and complex,” the statement said.

“The Garifuna people in the diaspora reside in several distinct political nation states in Central America. A significant number have migrated and established vibrant communities in the USA. The Garifuna in the Diaspora have yet to determine among themselves a consensual mechanism for identifying a common leadership and overarching authoritative voice.

“…There is still much work to be done in this regard before a concrete result can emerge in future to determine whether there will be any unified organization speaking for all Garifuna people. This consensual voice may be required if the dialogue on Honorary Citizenship is to take place on a constructive basis between representatives of the Government and people of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Garifuna in the diaspora as a whole.”

The statement said the recognition of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer as the First National Hero and the call for Reparations by the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines were critical steps and have enabled the building of a greater level of awareness of the garifuna heritage and Culture than hitherto.

“Notwithstanding, the leap of consciousness from this level to one that will be required for the extension of what is normally perceived as a birthright – i.e citizenship – should not be underestimated. It would be very unfortunate if the fallout from the current debate on Honorary Citizenship would lead to a reversal of the hard work done by many persons and organisations over the years to build the appreciation for and knowledge of the Garifuna Heritage and culture. If this is replaced by resentment on the part of some Vincentians of their Garifuna Brothers and sisters in the diaspora, or an unwillingness by others to become involved in the process of promoting the Garifuna Heritage and Culture in SVG, then that would be detrimental to the ongoing relationship between our peoples.”

The statement said the issue of honorary citizenship or full citizenship for persons from the Garifuna diaspora not presently entitled, is one which “first and foremost concerns Vincentians as current holders of this sacred birthright.”

“It will be guided principally by the Laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines and changes to citizenship can be made changes to the existing laws and by the Vincentian Lawmakers under whose responsibility it falls to determine.

“Persons from the Garifuna diaspora who are not Vincentians can express opinions and ideas, however these opinions and ideas at this point in time will more than likely not be emerging from one common, consensual position of all people in the Garifuna diaspora. It is more important that a strategy be outlined for the Vincentian public to be fully engaged in the development and approval of any proposal which affects the conveying of such citizenship. Any approach which seeks to force the issue will, in our view, be counterproductive.”

TGHF urged that discussions on the issue be given the seriousness it deserves in all its complexity.

“In the context of an upcoming General Elections, discussions of such a nature could be impacted by the divisiveness of party politics. We also urge that a long-term approach be adopted, within which proposals for strengthening the educational and awareness programmes on the Garifuna Heritage and culture at the local level be included for development and implementation and that the approach of dialogue and consensus building be strategically employed.”