Our Readers' Opinions
October 28, 2016
37th anniversary of Independence for SVG

Editor: St Vincent and the Grenadines celebrates its 37th anniversary of Independence on Thursday, October 27. The multi-island state is one of the last Windward Islands to achieve this goal, but despite this, the country has done relatively well; and like other countries in the region, the country is experiencing difficult times, including unemployment and crime.{{more}}

Despite political independence, the country is still headed by the British monarchy and retains the Privy Council as the final court because a referendum for a change was defeated, following vigorous campaign by the opposition more than six years ago. However, a few months ago, legislation was passed that it is no longer required for Vincentians to swear allegiance to the Queen.

It was Ebenezer Joshua who started the fight for the country to gain independence, followed by Milton Cato, the leader of the Labour Party, who eventually saw the Union Jack lowered to become the country’s first Prime Minister; but it was James Mitchell’s NDP which made some significant changes. At one time, Mitchell was so powerful that his party won all 15 seats, but shortly after, the electorate became disenchanted and he handed over the leadership to Arnhim Eustace, an economist, who was not in active politics. This no doubt was a mistake and Eustace lost the Government after serving only five months.

Ralph Gonsalves, a leftist politician, merged his small United Peoples Movement (UPM) with the SVG Labour Party and with his knowledge, excellent public relations and wit, soon became the leader of the merged Unity Labour Party (ULP) and became the Prime Minister in 2001 and has since won all four general elections. The leader of the NDP lost all four elections and it is surprising he is still leading the NDP. Two years ago (in 2014) he delivered an Independence message – purported to be the 40th anniversary with him as Prime Minister and spoke of significant changes.

This, in my view, was unfortunate for a leader of a main political party. He has made so many blunders, his latest his threat to switch the country’s diplomatic recognition to Beijing, should his party win the next general elections. SVG has been enjoying a sound relationship with Taiwan for the past 35 years – gaining benefits in agriculture, offering scholarships to hundreds, developmental projects, training and several other areas; no doubt spent tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars, and it is amazing that Eustace wants to sever ties.

SVG boasts of several outstanding Vincentians including Joseph Chatoyer, the national hero, Cecil Cyrus, an outstanding surgeon who founded the Botanic Hospital, author of two books, who was recognized by the University of the West Indies with a honorary doctorate, and although SVG has not abolished appeals to the Privy Council, one of its nationals, Adrian Saunders, has been appointed as a Judge on the Caribbean Court of Justice.

There is an inordinate delay in the completion of the Argyle International Airport, which will no doubt boost tourism significantly, but Government, as well as the private sector, should not sit and wait for the completion of the airport; they should work assidiously to attract investors and developers. They should tap international and regional agencies for assistance in this regard.

Best wishes, SVG.

Oscar Ramjeet