R. Rose
February 12, 2010
Yo’ dam’ rite, son

“…The people of the Grenadines will never forget you or your children or grandchildren…”

Those are words, according to the NEWS newspaper of February 5, 2010, that were purportedly said to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves by one of his predecessors, Sir James Mitchell, in a telephone conversation. (Seems like these two guys have their own ‘hotline’. No wonder the Grand Beach Accord could be organised so speedily!).{{more}} Mitchell was apparently referring to the action of the Gonsalves administration in imposing a $1.00 charge for use of facilities for travellers to the Grenadines using the Grenadines wharf. That charge caused much controversy with protests by the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), the party which Mitchell founded. It was finally scrapped by the P.M. in his 2010 Budget presentation.

Politics aside, it is amazing that a supposed “elder statesman” should make such an utterance, and get favourable reception in a supposedly “Christian” society as well. “Never forget, never forgive”? Christians accepting that? Well! well! Is Sir James speaking as an aggrieved resident of the Grenadines or does he have the official blessing of the two Grenadines Parliamentarians? Does his party, the NDP, endorse this statement? It certainly marks a sharp departure from the line taken by Sir James, when in power, in reference to Emancipation, slavery and our cries for reparation. We were urged then to put all these behind us, to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and all that. Slavery and colonialism are apparently minor transgressions which we should forgive and forget, but the $1.00 charge is of such magnitude that Gonsalves will never be forgiven and forgotten. Such are Mitchell’s scales of justice!

But maybe, just maybe Sir James is right. For the government had always defended the $1.00 charge as a matter of principle. The $1.00 itself was never the issue. On the one hand, it was payment for a service, on the other a discriminatory tax against the people of the Grenadines. If the government had waded through all the controversy and stuck to the principle, why wait until now to rescind the charge? Why engage in the clumsy attempt to talk of this having been done because of the intervention of some “old lady from the Grenadines”? Come off it! That is what gives credence to the political allegations and the branding of the rescind order, not as the action of a responsive government, but one of political expediency.

It gives Mitchell room to “pampaset” as we say in colloquial language. He, of all people, should never be in any position to talk of “never forget, never forgive”. But it is precisely because that we, as a collective people, have forgiven him his transgressions, and they were far from few or minor, that he could now be in the open making such bold statements. It is because we have forgotten, whether conveniently or not, the massive Ottley Hall fraud that he could now come on the stage and “dingolay”. But Gonsalves may not be so lucky. Many of his supporters have not forgotten his promise to prosecute the fraudsters, a gangplank of his 2001 campaign. Nine years later, Mitchell laughing “in he face”.

If “never forgive, never forget” is the new game we playing, what are we doing about the shame of the one-party Parliament and one-man government, 1989 to 1994? Do we recall the infamous “…conceive, perceive and receive…” statement of Sir James. Just as we are rightly incensed over the lack of transparency in the USD million deposited in the NCB during the referendum campaign, shouldn’t we equally vividly remember the million dollar scam of Bensacome Adames which took the million OUT of our bank? The Kingstown vegetable market, (Sir James dubbed it “The Poor People Palace”) and his own christened “Little Tokyo” are living relics for those prone to memory lapses.

There are more..and more. Who could forget the “Greedy Bill” which helped to bring the administration elected in 1998 to its knees and cut short the life of Parliament and Government? Opposition leader Arnhim Eustace has certainly not forgotten, or forgiven. Just who he blames may be a matter of conjecture. Even as he extols the actions of the Grenadines’ people never to forgive or forget, I suppose Sir James would not hold it against us all, the people of St.Vincent and the Grenadines, if we did not forget or forgive his actions over our national flag. Lest we forget, having set up a Committee to oversee the process, having invited designs, having chosen a winner, local cultural icon SULLE, Sir James proceeded to get a foreigner to design the flag, and then put John Horne, then Culture Minister, to run it up the flagpole. (Those were the days that he hardly graced us with his presence at National Independence).

We could go on and on, but nuff’ ‘bout Sir James. It was Ralph he was talking ‘bout. He right, too, for if after all of that, if after all that has been done in the country over the past decade, Ralph were to turn this country back into the hands of Sir James and his cohorts, then neither history nor the people of St.Vincent and the Grenadines will ever forgive or forget. It is he who took his eye off the metaphorical snake which Ebeneezer Joshua had warned us about, and embarked on a misplaced tactic of almost courting Mitchell to attack Eustace. That has clearly backfired. It is he who hugged those who now vilify him so vehemently, as part of his early 100 days team. The fangs soon came out when the vipers couldn’t get their desires. It is he who, in the face of all the complaints, kept telling us what a “wonderful team” he has. Well, they will have to work wonders to retain their seats.

So, Sir James “rite fo’ talk so”. Is we who forgive and forget!!

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.