Our Readers' Opinions
March 5, 2010
Freedom of Speech in SVG is an illusion

EDITOR: Not long ago, I was reading with a cynical smile on my face about the accolades won by St. Vincent and the Grenadines according to international measures of free speech.{{more}}

Several newspaper articles referred with pride to a report in which we scored “high marks” as a nation open to free speech. My skepticism caused me to reflect on the definition of free speech because there was no way I could find myself in agreement with such findings. No objective thinker would be seduced into believing there’s freedom of speech in a political system fraught with victimization and retaliation. You see, the government has never been shy about “muzzling” dissenters, hence my nom de plume of the last couple years. One has only to review the long list of persons on the list to be sued, from Dougie Defreitas and radio stations, to NDP and Kay Bacchus, in order to glean some insight into the true scheme of things.

In reality, freedom of speech is a myth in St. Vincent and the Grenadines – a tantalizing notion, bejeweled by deceit. The parameters are such that one is only free to speak well of the government – and that’s it. End of free speech! It is a delusion to imagine otherwise.

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, free speech is not so “free”, as we are witnessing with the Anesia Baptiste affair. Speech is not so free when it costs you your job, causes you harassment, or subjects your family members to tyranny. Dare to talk about the rape of a policewoman – you’re in trouble. Dare to give an open opinion about deposits into the NCB – you are threatened a lawsuit. Dare to have the audacity to think – aahhh, well, just ask Ms. Baptiste…free speech is an illusion.

And while the government champions an education revolution, it appears that the education revolution bypassed members of government. A system of government that throws its weight against bright young people is nothing short of foolish. Still, the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines who are afraid to engage in free speech will certainly speak at the next elections, as they did in the referendum.

Ralph claims to have “gotten the message” but I don’t think so… he continues to enjoy a false sense of security issued partly by the elusive nature of free speech. It would serve him well to remember with caution these words that echo from the not so distant past: “The people have spoken.” History has a way of repeating itself.

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