Our Readers' Opinions
March 8, 2013

Demagoguery sinks to a new low

Fri Mar 08, 2013

Editor: Just when I thought I will not be submitting another article any time soon, another local politician performed an acrobatic pedi-linguistic contortion by putting his foot in his mouth and I just could not resist – fodder galore! The most recent gaffe, as of the time of writing this article, occurred on Thursday, February 28, 2013, on the local airwaves emanating from the same broadcast studio where another politician went on a verbal rampage a few weeks ago.{{more}}
In discussing recent events with the host, this politician said, among other things, the following: “We are a small and insignificant country”. I am beginning to think that it may have something to do with the air quality in the sound-proof studio. Is it that there is not enough oxygenated air circulating and as a result causes temporary cerebral paralysis and a resultant prolixity? How else does one explain the absurdity of this deprecating, opprobrious profanity that rolled off the tongue of someone who otherwise seems rational and intelligent, and does in fact have the academic qualifications to attest to his scholarship?

This from the same political operative who, for the past three years or so, has been spouting off about “meritocracy”. It seems to me that this is a diametric inconsistency in philosophy. If one believes in the recognition on merit of the individual, regardless of a person’s origin, ethnicity, etc, and believes that employment, promotion and other recognitions ought to be based strictly on merit should it not follow logically that “sovereign meritocracy” ought also to be accorded without regard to geographical location, geological dimension, ethnicity of populace, population and other demographics?

Isn’t St Vincent and the Grenadines a chartered member of the United Nations, whose vote in the General Assembly is equal to all other member countries, including the so-called permanent members? St Vincent and the Grenadines will celebrate thirty-four years of independence this year. Arguably, the recognition of this island nation on the world stage had been low-keyed for the first twenty-one years of independence. With the ushering into office of the Unity Labour Party, led by the charismatic nationalistic, regionalist and cosmopolitan Prime Minister, the brand of St Vincent and the Grenadines has soared. The activist foreign policy forays, the capitalization and leveraging of sovereignty, the forging of new bi-lateral relationships with what is termed our “untraditional friends”, flung far and wide and touching every continent. Surely St Vincent and the Grenadines stands tall in the world community.

The most far-reaching, long-lasting and profound effect of this new-found recognition is as a result of the Education Revolution. Whereas in antecedent times, Vincentian students at the University of the West Indies’ three major campuses were the minority, this has since, around two thousand and five, been reversed, in that Vincentian enrollees now account for the majority after the host country of the campus territory.
As a consequence of the emphasis put on education, the prime minister actively solicits scholarships, bursaries and other academic concessions at every possible encounter with our new and traditional friends in countries spanning the globe. This can be asserted by the numbers of our young people enrolled in colleges and universities around the world. Luke Browne and Kamal Wood are alumni of the prestigious Rhodes scholarship, putting them in the academic league of the likes of former president Bill Clinton, former secretary of labour Robert Reich and others. Every student studying abroad is a de facto ambassador for St Vincent and the Grenadines. The friendships they make, the bonds they forge while students, will redound to the benefit of St Vincent and the Grenadines in years to come.

The electrifying, spellbinding speeches delivered at the United Nations General Assembly by the gregarious and confident prime minister, who has as one of his mantras pertaining to our sovereignty and independence: “We ain’t better than anybody, but nobody is better than us”. This has greatly motivated Vincentians of all walks of life, at home and in the diaspora to walk with an extra spring in their step and to proudly proclaim their “Vincy” identity. The selection of our permanent representative to the United Nations to co-chair a very important conference does in fact bear testimony to the fact that we are recognized by our peers in the world body.
Sir James Mitchell, our longest serving prime minister, sits as a member of the Council of Elders of former heads of state. Vincentian men and women have served and are serving with distinction in the British and American armed forces, including the much decorated Ivan O’Neal. The service of our founding father, the Rt Hon. Robert Milton Cato, in the Canadian Armed Forces, was to a great degree the reason we were beneficiaries of Canada’s generosity in terms of the projects they funded for St Vincent and the Grenadines. Numerous Vincentians in the diaspora excel in a variety of fields and disciplines.

The Garifuna of Honduras, Belize and other Central American countries and their diaspora, consider St Vincent and the Grenadines their homeland and make pilgrimages here to celebrate their ancestry and to identify with their roots. The unfortunate pronouncement of the parliamentarian, I would suspect, represents a major affront to the dignity and cultural identity of the Garifuna people. Hugh Mulzac, Elsworth ‘Shake’ Keane, Adonal Foyle, Sancho Little, Kevin Little, Alston “Beckett” Cyrus, Sophia Young have all played their parts in the significant recognition of St Vincent and the Grenadines around the world.

It is unfortunate that a person who is an appointed member of our parliament and who has on three occasions gone to the people asking for their vote to be an elected member, has sunken to this new low for the sake of politics. If elected to office, will his party seek to rescind the chartered membership of St Vincent and the Grenadines at the United Nations? Does a Vincentian have to land on the moon for such persons to consider our country one of significance? Certainly, this island nation, though small in size, is by no means “insignificant.” I, therefore, call on the appointed parliamentarian who disparaged and denigrated the name of our blessed St Vincent and the Grenadines, to publicly apologize. No parsing of words. No legalese. No semantic choreography – just be magnanimous and say you are sorry!

Benson Feddows