Forty-one years ago, on October 27, 1979, St. Vincent and the Grenadines regained its independence from Britain, which had been the colonising power for over 200 years, unbroken since 1763, save and except for a four-year period 1779 to 1783 when the French was in temporary occupation.
Britain’s remaking of SVG
Over that period Britain remade St. Vincent and the Grenadines, known originally by the indigenous Callinago and Garifuna people as Yuremein or, alternatively, Youlou and the Begos. Britain remade St. Vincent and the Grenadines in its own image and interests by initialing, and ruthlessly implementing, the following, among other measures: Establishing a colonial state run by its nationals through the force of military might; putting in place the political and economic linkages with the expanding mercantile capitalism of Britain; introducing large-scale commercial agriculture, mainly sugar cane, on plantations carved out for ownership by British nationals; wiping out, through native genocide, over two-thirds of the 10,000 or so Callinago and Garifuna people; dispossessing the native people of their lands and corralling “the remnants”, after genocide, in narrow enclaves of inhospitable lands; introducing between 1764 and the end of the slave trade in 1807 over 55,000 Africans as slaves — at slavery’s end in 1838 there were some 22,000 slaves (men, women, and children); recruiting over 2,000 Portuguese from Madeira as indentured servants, between 1845 and 1850; importing over 2,500 Indians as indentured servants between 1861 and 1880.
RESISTANCE TO COLONIALISM AND MATERIAL DISPOSSESSION 1979
Between 1763 and the reclamation of independence in 1979, there was immense resistance to colonialism and the material conditions of life and living. Outstanding examples include: The indigenous people’s resistance between 1764 and 1795 until the ambush, and killing, of Chatoyer, our National Hero; the daily creative acts of resistance to slavery by the enslaved Africans; the post-emancipation acts of rebellion in 1848 and 1862 by the former slaves; the protest by the Indian indentured servants in 1861; the early 20th century opposition to colonial rule by the St. Vincent Representative Government Association; the anti-colonial uprising of October 21, 1935, which ushered in the beginnings of the modern social democratic revolution under the leadership of George Mc Intosh and the St. Vincent Workingmen’s Association; the continuation of the many-sided social democratic revolution under Ebenezer Joshua’s People’s Political Party (PPP) and the Federated Industrial and Agricultural Workers’ Union (FIAWU), and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Labour Party under Milton Cato’s leadership; the anti-colonial and nationalist struggles of Democratic Freedom Movement, Youlou United Liberation Movement, and the United People’s Movement.
Social Democratic Revolution
The resistance to colonialism and the unfolding of the social democratic revolution contributed significantly to our achievement of modern internal self-government and independence, a lifting of our people’s material condition of life and living, and improved governance. It is in this tradition of struggle and immense achievement that our ULP government stands. And our government is deepening and broadening the ongoing social democratic revolution, amidst all its contradictions and complexities, in the people’s interest.
Over the past 41 years since the reclamation of our independence, our nation has made immense progress in life, living, production, and good governance, particularly in the last twenty years. The overwhelming evidence is all before us.
Progress, challenges and social solidarity
Considerable progress has been effected despite awesome challenges arising from the limitations of size and material resources; the debilitating historical legacies; the collapse of the preferential market in Britain for our bananas; the deleterious impacts of climate change and natural disasters; the global economic depression of 2008, and continuing; turmoil and contradictions in the global political economy; and the prevalence of devastating global pandemics, including COVID-19.
Despite all these challenges, and more, our people, collectively, have worked hard and smart to build their lives, their communities, and their nation to a High Level of Human Development, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). To be sure, there are intractable pockets of indigence, and there is unevenness in the distribution of material resources, but the process has been underway to address efficaciously, and inclusively, these twin developmental shackles of material deprivation and inequality.
Our 41st anniversary of independence is being commemorated at a time of two public health challenges: the global pandemic of COVID-19; and the regional, and hemispheric, problem of dengue. We have been addressing these public health hazards quite well, though the dengue fever has claimed a few lives. Public health issues of these kinds are a shared responsibility of the government, the people as a whole, and relevant regional and international organisations. The promotion of naked, unadulterated, dog-eat-dog individualism is the enemy of social solidarity which is required to fight, successfully, public health challenges. The building of a social individual through social solidarity, and good neighborliness, is the essential foundation in the war against public health hazards. Appropriate and uplifting governmental action, in communion with the people, cements social solidarity; so, too, our government’s linkages with our developmental partners overseas.
The path to recolonisation and shame
There are those in our midst who are actively trumpeting the mirage of a proverbial pot of gold at the end of the passport-selling and citizenship-selling rainbow. This is a sure pathway to a recolonisation of our country in this period by European, British, and Chinese operators in the field of passport-citizenship selling. It is a shameful proposal by persons with no idea of sustainable development or genuine love for country. Selling our passports and citizenship is wrong in principle and practice. It is an open door towards modern enslavement by marauders, disreputable financiers, and vagabonds, aided and abetted by backward elements of a segment of the petit-bourgeoisie who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. And the people will suffer if that ever comes to pass. The ULP stands firm against this outrageous proposal. We will never allow it to happen! Never!
Independence 2020 and Elections
Independence Day 2020 is engulfed by a robust campaign for the forthcoming general elections. The Unity Labour Party (ULP), which I have had the honour to lead for 22 years now, is seeking a fifth consecutive term in government. It is running on the basis of its excellent record of performance; its vision, philosophy, policies, and programmes for sustainable development; the party’s structures and functioning; its team of quality candidates and quality leadership. Strategically, our government is offering both consolidation, and further deepening and broadening, of the economic and social transformation which it has initiated and implemented, in the people’s interest. The 100-page ULP’s Election Manifesto, 2020 provides a bundle of serious and practical proposals for a further self-sustaining development of our country.
Our country has a history of free, fair, and peaceful general elections. I expect the 2020 elections would be held in accordance with those high standards. We in the ULP pledge an honest, clean, well-conducted, peaceful campaign. And let us all humbly accept the people’s verdict when it is delivered on polling day.
Happy 41st anniversary of independence!
Long Live SVG!