Round Table with Oscar
September 26, 2014
Independence 2014: A time to stand up

1979 was a year to remember in our part of the Caribbean. In March, the people of Grenada confirmed a revolution led by Maurice Bishop and the New Jewel Movement. In April, our La Soufriere volcano erupted, and had thousands of our people and tons of volcanic debris “arriving” in unexpected places. In August, a coalition of committed, activist, and socialist working people and professionals launched a much needed National liberation political alliance.{{more}} Constitutional Independence arrived in October, with national elections for an Independent government held in December. This was swiftly followed by an Anti-government Uprising in Union Island, and an import of defence force troops from Barbados to settle the government. Regrettably, what we have salvaged from that momentous year for our national imagination are episodes from the eruption and ritual resonances of Independence.

Even the creole folklore that the popular imagination promoted, no longer connects with us. Who can recall the derisve “Bodow” and Doh Panic of the April days? And there was the dismissive name calling of NIC “nincompoops” referring to an energetic, broad and shrewd community of pro independence patriots. The rallying cry for change in those days was “Upful is the Word”, and the calculated retort of the Governing group was a powerful mixture of “communist boys” and “pullout old people’s toenails” and the like. Bumba and Boots — the calypso — signalled the epitaph of that 1979 epoch, and the start of the collapse of late colonial Labour party governance with the slogan, “Horn Fo Dem”. Memory lane can at times generate more than nostalgia.


Four political parties with some following faced the people in 1979, the year we resumed a sort of independence. As it is today, politics was in the driver’s seat, but in that year, civil society, or what we might have called “People’s Power” was upright, erect and on the march. On the party front, the idea of a national unity administration to launch the independence era was farfetched. In fact two of the political parties were firmly opposed to independence while the then government was in office. The 2 month old UPM was fully in support of the break with colonialism, confident that an informed and independent people could exercise democratic “manners” on their government. It was an optimistic time, because many of the persons in the leadership for change had felt the weight of oppressive government but they had not buckled. A unity and a duty to themselves and the future kept them unflinching at the prospects of hurt. They stood. And organisations stood with them.

It is a sad irony, that just as 1979 in our subregion’s eruption coincided with a morally legitimate March 13th revolution in Grenada, so it began to disintegrate with an October massacre in 1983 in Grenada. The “Boots” that were imported to settle Grenada included some of ours. It is arguably too simple to say that Grenada’s cruel revolutionary self destruct fatally contaminated the popular democratic blossom in SVG. Yet that tragic catastrophy put non democratic, or weak democratic impulses in the front of the change movement in SVG from 1983. Today, we are becoming aware in a new generation, that from a battered stump, a new shoot wants to sprout and in time lift its blossom high.

A different eruption is brewing. Erectness and rectitude in the face of complacent compromise with moral and economic disgrace wants to emerge. A new Vincentian citizen must rise to meet and make the Independence promise of a new day, a new dignity, and a new prosperity open up tomorrow. Constructing National Independence is the call and duty of conscious and fearless and united citizens. Our time has come again.