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September 25, 2015
The Missing Details: On the NDP Garifuna Conundrum – Part III

The Debacle

As we taxied to the runway for takeoff from the Lester B Pierson Airport in Toronto, the Caribbean Airways’ captain announced that there was an ‘indication’ that something was not right with the aircraft and that we would have to turn back to the departure gate. After sitting in the aircraft for about three hours, we were deplaned and had to wait in the airport for another five hours before we were finally on our way to Trinidad’s Piarco Airport.{{more}} Of course, when we got there, the LIAT flight that I was supposed to catch to travel on to SVG had long since departed. On investigation, I discovered that all flights to SVG were fully booked until August 3.

Caribbean Airways had made arrangements for the in transit, discomfitted passengers to stay in a hotel. After two hours of sleep there, I arrived back at the airport at 4:30 a.m., determined to get on a flight to SVG on that day and to do so without having to pay the fare for a new ticket as I had been told by LIAT officials. I completely ignored the hundreds of people already lined up for outgoing flights, planted myself in front of a LIAT counter and made sufficient noise that someone had to eventually serve me. That someone turned out to be the head LIAT supervisor who somehow managed to get the appropriate Caribbean Airways supervisor involved and, I found myself on a flight out of Trinidad at 6 a.m. that morning without having to pay for a replacement ticket.

On arrival at ET Joshua airport, I paid my way to the Cobblestone Inn and, later, took a walk along Back Street with Wellington Ramos who, within two days and based on the number of people who greeted him, had already attained celebrity status in Kingstown. Having enquired earlier, in our negotiations before travelling to SVG, about transportation to ensure that we would be able to travel around St Vincent independently of the NDP, I was informed by Ramos that all of our transportation was being provided by the NDP in the person of Elmore Edwards. I considered our privacy and independence to be of utmost importance so I was not pleased with this arrangement and, given the political pitfalls which I had anticipated, I was determined to operate independently of the Party.

As we were passing one of the buildings in Kingstown, I stopped at one building, introduced Ramos to the owner (a boyhood friend whose name I will not divulge since I have not sought his approval to do so) and raised the matter of transportation, asking jokingly whether he knew of a vehicle we could rent at a lower than normal cost. He did not have such a vehicle but he immediately took out his cell phone and made a call. When his conversation had ended, he wrote the name of another individual on a piece of paper and told me to go to Campden Park and there would be a vehicle waiting for me there. When I asked how much would be the daily cost, he looked at me and, to my utter astonishment, he said: “No cost. That is the owner’s contribution to the cause.”

Next, we went to attend a press conference at the NDP headquarters. We were transported there by Mr Edwards and, as I walked into NDP Headquarters, I immediately noticed a bit of a disagreement going on between Vynnette Frederick and Mr St Clair Leacock in the presence of Mr Eustace. I took note of the disturbing fact that she was addressing Mr Leacock in a manner and voice that, according to my standard of judgement, should not be allowed at any time. Mr Eustace noticed my fixation on the conversation and immediately suggested that we should go upstairs. Later, as we moved into the press room, I took note of the fact that, although I had been mentioned to the assembled crowd, I was not invited to sit at the table with Mr Eustace and Ramos. I judged the press conference to have proceeded well but I was totally flabbergasted that Mr Ramos was being introduced and hailed as the ‘Leader’ of the delegation, a designation that had never existed in our relationship before coming to SVG.

Next, we were off to a lunch at Mr John Horne’s residence where I found myself again separated and sitting in the crowd. During our rather animated conversation, John Horne asked about my proposal to Mr Eustace. I provided some salient details to those at the table. John Horne asked whether he could be favoured with a copy of the proposal and I told him I would, provided that was okay with Mr Eustace. The evening was spent at the home of a member of Vynnette’s family but, once again, I felt excluded and not really welcomed by the crowd. The next morning, Joseph Guerrero arrived and he and Ramos immediately went off to an interview with SVG TV. I noted that I was not asked to participate. Later that day, I did make an appearance on New Times programme but I have never seen the public presentation of it. That afternoon, I took a taxi to Campden Park and picked up the vehicle that had been provided. Before heading out to Greiggs for the rally, I insisted that I wanted a copy of whatever schedule we were supposed to be following instead of constantly not knowing what was happening next.

At the rally, Clive Bishop who had first made an appearance on Luzette’s Global Highlights made his first appearance. His speech dragged on for 30 minutes with little or no effect and with some members of the crowd occasionally calling for “the Garifuna.” According to the advertisement announcing the rallies, Dr Adrian Fraser was supposed to appear, but he did not show up at Greiggs or at Sandy Bay later. About five minutes before I was to take the stand, the chair came to sit beside me and informed Joseph and me that our speeches would have to be shortened to 10 minutes thus causing the speech that I was about to give to be jettisoned. I informed Joseph that I was perplexed at the sudden change and had no idea what I was going to say. He agreed that he felt the same way. Next, I was introduced as Dr Scott by the chair, a matter that left me surprised, but given my limited time to speak and not knowing what I was to speak about, I decided to ignore the chair’s gaffe. Haltingly, I touched shortly on my background, my part in the Garifuna project, and my desire to work with Dr Fraser to begin the process of publishing an up-to-date, more appropriate and educational history of SVG. My presentation was 17 minutes long. Joseph followed, just as confusedly as I, and used up 15 minutes. Next came Ramos, with a rabble rousing speech that went on and on. I was surprised by the obviously preferential treatment being accorded to Ramos.

This was the first time I had heard him speak in public. I paid particular attention to what he was saying and how he was saying it. The crowd loved his egocentric performance, but I did not think the majority of them were fully accepting what he was saying. His was a speech that lifted the exiled Garifuna and their achievement to a height that did not represent their actual catharsis or lived experience. His was a speech that left the Caribs and Garifuna of SVG looking like unaccomplished and lost idiots. His was a speech that celebrated his and the exiled Garifuna’s greatness in terms of never having experienced slavery but his speech also made a mockery of the slavery experiences and the struggle up from nothing of the entire body of peoples that has created SVG. I was appalled at what I was hearing and I ended up getting up from my seat, removing myself from the platform, and walking among the assembled crowd in order to judge whether this message was actually being effectively accepted by the audience. I left Greiggs thinking that, from what I had observed, most people in the audience thought of him as an accomplished, but wilful buffoon. ( See the final part in the next Midweek Searchlight.)