When Vincentians reflect on the last twenty-one and a half years of their lives and soberly examine the issues and factors which have fashioned their present circumstances, they will have difficulty avoiding the conclusion that life in St. Vincent today, is far away from the quality which at the end of the last century we seemed to have been working towards.
What seemed to have happened, is that our own administrators were not of the material which was necessary for the leadership at that critical juncture. One must now wonder, if Ebenezer Joshua might not have been more effective in advancing the well-being of this society, given the totality of his orientation and the impact of the changes he had initiated, during the era of his influence in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
One of the principal “stamps” of Ebenezer Joshua on this Vincentian society, has been the freedom in Religious Worship which allowed the traditionally “out-lawed’ Shakers – Spiritual Baptists – to come down from the mountains and practice their faith freely in residential areas of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
That religious groups, more than any other, had helped the masses to endure in those difficult yesteryears, after the abolition of slavery in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
But it seems fair to say, from the mound on which I sit, that our leaders since the advent of “Independence”, seemed to have been more focused on the control of power, than on the development of all the people.
In the era of Milton Cato and the “St. Vincent Labour Party”, we had our brighter scholars who dared to be critical, being disparagingly referenced by our leaders and physically and emotionally harassed by the Police. Then there was the historic ignominious teargassing of our teachers and the despicable incarcerating of Mrs. Yyonne Francis-Gibson, a teacher, whose passion for society building had positively impacted the communities wherever she resided.
When James Mitchell became the Prime Minister in 1984, the hopes of the agriculture community were fairly high. He was a qualified agronomist and he had previously, in his stint as Premier, overseen an impressive “National Agricultural Exhibition”, in which almost every citizen participated with enthusiasm. He declared some time afterwards, however, that he was on a mission to transform this economy from an agriculture-based one to one that was services-based. In pursuit of that, he embarked on the selling off of lands in the Grenadines to expatriates who were offered very generous terms. At the same time, there was little interest shown in the maintenance of the feeder roads on which the farmers relied. There was as a result of that unfortunate repositioning of the economic thrust of our nation, a serious diminishing of the quality of life of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This was to a large degree responsible for the NDP and James Mitchell being rejected at the poles in 2001, when Ralph Gonsalves and the ULP fervently promised that they were going to revive the agriculture sector and Banana Industry.
So in came Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and the ULP! It is note-worthy that Dr. Gonsalves had vehemently castigated Mr. Mitchell for his “recklessness” in selling off the lands in the Grenadines to expatriates while offering them generous tax-free concessions.
But what was bad under James Mitchell has seemingly grown worse under Ralph Gonsalves, to such a degree, that several “big investors” have turned out to be merely “smart-men” who had hood-winked our administrators and withdrawn owing us millions of dollars.
Vincentians can now bear testimony to the fact that “Untrustworthiness lubricates poverty – ULP”.
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