July 28, 2015
Garifuna delegation in SVG for discussions on honorary citizenship

A Garifuna leader is presently in St Vincent and the Grenadines having conversations with the New Democratic Party (NDP) about honorary citizenship for the Garifuna people.

Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace, while speaking on the New Times radio {{more}}programme yesterday, revealed that he met Professor Wellington Ramos at the airport yesterday (Monday) to give him an official welcome to this country.

According to Eustace, Ramos, who has written a ‘constitution’, is one of three Garifuna persons that will sit with the NDP to discuss how the honorary citizenship programme will work.

“I have a copy of the constitution and it’s a pretty substantial document, so I’m looking forward to the next week or so while they will be here with us to carry our discussions further in terms of what can be covered within the framework of honorary citizenship and so forth, to make sure we can offer the relevant facilities to recognize their commitment to St Vincent and the Grenadines and…our commitment to them.”

Eustace noted that while some persons see the matter of honorary citizenship for the Garifuna as a purely partisan issue, it is a major national issue that involves all Vincentians. He added that a number of rallies will be held at which the Garifuna people will be the presenters and not NDP candidates.

“We are taking this very seriously. We have put a lot of thought into it and how we should present it to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said. “The Garifuna are going to speak. They are the persons who are going to deliver at those rallies and we will add to that people like Dr [Adrian] Fraser, who has all the history associated with that, people like [Clive] ‘Bish-I’ [Bishop] who can address the issues and explain what Garifuna is all about, rather than having a party political rally.”

Eustace also revealed that local Garifuna organizations were invited to attend these rallies.

The Opposition Leader noted that during their visit, the delegation will visit the island of Baliceaux, where the Garifuna were exiled in the 18th century.

In his remarks, Eustace observed that the trip to Baliceaux is something that the Garifuna delegation is very excited about.

“I mentioned that we will visit Baliceaux and very calmly, he (Wellington Ramos) said ‘Yes, we must meet our ancestors’.

“These are people who really believe that this is their home and although two centuries or more have passed, their attitude and their commitment is so deep, even in the most casual of conversations.”

Tomorrow, the NDP will hold a press conference at 10:45 a.m. at their headquarters, at which members of the visiting delegation, including Ramos, will be present.

Another member of the delegation, Joseph Guerrero, will arrive in the country on Thursday, while Vincentian Anatol Scott, who is also travelling as part of the contingent, will arrive today.

The week-long visit will include the delegation’s participation in a number of events, including a Garifuna Rally on Thursday at the Greiggs Playing Field, starting at 7 p.m; a closed session with the NDP on Friday; attendance at a Garifuna Rally on Sunday at Sandy Bay, starting at 5 p.m and a trip to Balliceaux on August 3. A joint statement will be issued on Tuesday, August 4.

In June, Eustace announced during a town hall meeting at Friends of Crown Heights in New York that once the NDP forms government after the next general elections, all Garifuna in the diaspora would be granted honorary citizenship in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has described the offer as “irresponsible” and “reckless”. He also said that citizenship was serious business that should not be tampered with lightly and called on the NDP to explain clearly what they meant by honorary citizenship.(BK)