Round Table with Oscar
November 8, 2016

Colonial dinosaurs overhauling our Independence

Two generations of Vincentians have been born behind the back of colonialism. They are now aged between days old and 37 years old, and they dwell in all social classes, all moral conditions and geographical locations worldwide. Although they are a majority of the Vincentian people, they do not hold the reins of power or social command, and what they have experienced about colonialism are the powerful residues that we have, still triumphant in our mentalities, our material and policy bondage, and in the spirit of the age – our intangible environment.{{more}} We have two rising generations of free Vincentians, led by two generations of their seniors, whom I am going to refer to inclusively, as ‘colonial dinosaurs’.

It is the responsible moment in this conjuncture to stare straight into the mirror and recognize in our features the distinctive marks of the crippling colonial virus. It is also up to us now to admit that we, the dinosaurs today, did not in 1979, nor since then, have the sense to launch a thorough anti-virus campaign against the world wide web that colonialism had prepared for us in the 200 plus years of bondage to Britain and its accomplices. The rising generations must hear not only our apologies, but be enlisted at all levels to overhaul our Indepen-dence.


Some of us thought that a constitution at Independence, or even afterwards, was enough to free our minds and put a structure for freedom around us. We believed that the rule of law, like faith, would ‘see us through’. I hope that we now know better. Take the case of the World Trade Organization (WTO), that operates the rule of law in matters of international trade. Non-legal loopholes at the WTO undermine the rule of law in cases which involve stronger nations. Or take the case of our own Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the rules-based agency which most regional governments refuse to endorse as the court to rule all courts. They clearly consider that other facts will prevent the rule of law from prevailing and sovereign operation. In another scenario, doesn’t the long legal tribulation of Mr Otto Sam show that the rule of law is only sovereign where the powerful are confronted, contested, outmanoeuvred, out resourced and morally dominated by a subaltern coalition? Law can facilitate freedom and justice, not guarantee them. The constitution flag and anthem are effective means of our independence only when we also decolonize our economy, our relationships, our education and cultural priorities and the governing structures of command. It is a very tall agenda and we have overlooked it and underestimated its scope over the past 37 years. That tragedy must end in a new onslaught and movement for sovereign nationhood and citizenship. Dinosaurs will have to give way, as well as give guidance to the new movement, from their earlier adolescent integrities, returning to the sources of their morality. We are called on to unwind the trappings of complicit imperial reins and restore the revolutionary imagination.


When Havelock Brewster and Clive Thomas wrote about economic integration in 1967, they noted that the West Indies enjoyed functional economic integration under mature British colonial rule. They pointed that we were territories, integrated with each other, for integration into the British economy and empire. Lloyd Best and others saw us as the colonial hinterland or periphery or backwaters branch of the central British economy and society. That kind of Caribbean unity was like an administrative operation of the mother country and it helped to provide the imaginary for 20th century unity concepts and plans, like the West Indies Federation of 1958-1962. Since then, a new vision for the unity of the Caribbean clashes with and butts up against the half-empty national independence begging bowl that each country hangs on to. At Independence, no Caribbean nation dreams of the greater nation we are destined to become. The idea did get some small mention during the 50th Indepen-dence festival in Jamaica, but it has not been followed up on. It seems that dinosaurs do not have long sight or foresight. In our own Vincentian context, two of our leaders have made regional initiatives of note. Prime Minister James Mitchell launched an OECS unity campaign in1987, which did generate some attention and support, embracing opposition parties in the region in its fold. The documentation of that movement has not seen the light of day. More recently and current still is Prime Minister Gonsalves’ Regional Reparations movement, under the leadership of Sir Hilary Beckles. It, too, has had some traction, but something seems to be missing in these invitations to trans-border co-operation. They seem not to touch the vital arteries, the political imaginations of the populations at the root of the nations.

As we look towards the overhaul of our sovereignty, what an agenda we have to tackle! Dinosaurs and colonial residues stand firmly blocking the way. What can we propose to do in the next three years, at our 40th anniversary, DV, about us dinosaurs and the accumulation of colonial debris in our small brains? We need help.