Understanding the Law
November 1, 2013

Cancellation of public speaking competition – monumental blunder

The cancellation of the 2013 public speaking competition shows an unwillingness of persons at the highest level to compromise. This is an annual event, widely anticipated, not only by the young people in secondary schools, but our nation as a whole. Why was the impasse not resolved? What about the child who entered Form 1 with his goal to win that competition? There should have been a resolution of the matter, if only for the benefit of our young people.{{more}} The adults should have shown a greater ability to accommodate and meet each other halfway across the aisle. They had an obligation to enable the young people to display their talent.


From what has been reported, the topics were presented to the Ministry of Education (MOE) for perusal as usual. The MOE reportedly changed the topics without engaging the Lions in a conversation. This approach of changing the topics without consultation with a long-standing partner was the crux of the matter. The Lions, undoubtedly, regarded it as an affront to their competency. They denounced it as an arbitrary action. This sensitive issue was not treated with the care it deserved. According to reports, the MOE later decided that there was no time for the debate and the 2013 competition was cancelled.


There were other mechanisms through which a resolution could have been reached, namely, through mediation, not necessarily by the court, but by a mixed group of fair-minded citizens. This way the parties could have deflected the blame and broken the impasse. It certainly was not fair to the class of 2013. It was not the lack of funding (LIME disclaimed any involvement in cancellation) and it was not a lack of participants.

The offending topics

Now, let us examine one of the offending topics. From the Lions came the statement: “The regularity, intensity and nature of crimes committed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have reached panic stage among the citizenry of the state.” This was counteracted by the MOE with “The commission of serious crimes in SVG has not yet reached the level of causing panic among the citizenry of the state.” To begin with, the two propositions are opposing statements on the same topic. Competitors could have taken one or the other side and that would have meant covering the statement from the MOE. Hence, it is difficult to understand the rationale for the correction of the original topic. If crimes are not of public concern, then the topic should have been scrapped entirely. We have tried to shield our children with softer tones and understatements, but children are exposed to the harsh realities in newspapers and in the communities where crimes occur.

Crimes in SVG

Crimes in SVG have reached an alarming level. I have written on this time and time again. Killings are not restricted to lovers’ quarrels. These dastardly crimes frequently make headlines in newspapers. People are tired of the killing. As to burglary, that is affecting many persons in SVG. Some persons’ houses have been broken into more than once. Isn’t this enough to cause panic? One more death or one more burglary is sufficient to cause an overpowering fear. It would have been refreshing to hear the perspectives of our young people on this topic. It would have been a good opportunity to wage war against crimes. It is unfortunate that the children were denied the opportunity.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com