By Shirlan “Zita” Barnwell
In his normal vulgar political style, Prime Minister Gonsalves kicks the ball into the righteous court of the New Democratic Party to remove the Queen as head of state. At this time of immense economic pressure on Vincentians, the prime minister must be in a rather desperate place to believe that becoming a republic is an issue worthy of occupying the minds of Vincentians.
One cannot help but ask whether the prime minister’s desperate call is nothing more than a desire to measure up to Mia Mottley’s achievement? But, what is the public good that he envisions Vincentians to achieve from this and how does the prime minister persuade Vincentians that removing the Queen as head of state, at this time, is nothing more than a belated attempt to salvage what’s left of his diminished legacy.
Not more than four months ago, the prime minister expended scarce state resources for security and entertainment for Prince Edward and Princess Sophie, colonial faces and personalities unknown to Vincentians. This type of spending is more than mere diplomacy because had the prime minister and his ministers possessed any honourable and true intentions to promote and protect the sovereign dignity of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, he would have backed our Rastafarian brothers and sisters and the residual reparations committee and ward off the monarchy just like Grenada. Further, not one good cent has ever been provided to ignite and fuel the Reparations movement in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, so why must we be convinced of the misappropriation of hard earned taxes to cast a referendum?
The call by Prime Minister Gonsalves must be ignored or rejected not only because there are more pressing issues for him and his ministers to attend their minds to, but because he leads a government that has systematically eroded our democracy either by keen deliberate actions or wicked omissions. You have to be mute by malice, not to say that he failed to transform the social and political culture from oppressive colonial style governance into a truly post-colonial modern democracy for Vincentians.
The mere removal of the Queen to replace her with “our own home-grown president”, as some would say, does not deepen our democracy. It is an important but artificial procedure that is basically a crawl to nowhere substantive. An excellent place to start, which may provide the prime minister with some gravitas, is with decolonising our laws.
In August 2021, public servants dared to exercise their right to peaceful protest when this government engaged the Public Order Act, Act 27 of 1951 to prohibit them from doing so. And lest we forget that in 2015, several political activists were charged with common nuisance for participating in peaceful demonstrations. And it was only under extreme pressure and regional embarrassment that the prime minister finally consulted with some quarters of civil society when he passed the controversial Cybercrime Bill, which by the way, was due for review two years after it became law.
In 2010, three teachers who failed at the election polls were refused their jobs when they reapplied. On behalf of the State, the Attorney General argued that Article 16 of the Collective Bargaining agreement signed by the hand of Gonsalves violated the section of the Constitution that prohibited public officers from, essentially, participating in elections. It is 12 years hence, and the prime minister has refused to table a bill to remove this prohibition which the same section of the Constitution enables him to do. The outdated 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement remains in effect because the prime minister and his imps, it seems, cannot get their way to deepen modern day slavery of teachers.
Paulo Friere, the Brazilian educator and philosopher, cautions us that“leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organise the people – they manipulate them. They do not liberate them, nor are they liberated: they oppress.”
November 2021, close to 300 public servants were economically assassinated when they were fired for daring to assert their right to bodily autonomy and right to informed consent against the prime minister’s evil vaccine mandate. Hundreds more in the private sector were dismissed. And in the face of truth he refuses to let him conscience move him. His ego engorged, he doubles down on a harmful unscientific policy.
In 2022, 21years since the prime minister took office we still do not have integrity legislation. The Freedom of Information Act 2003, The Child Justice Act 2021 and The Occupational Safety and Health Act 2021 remain sterile — laws on the books with no teeth. These laws would promote transparency, accountability, the rights of workers and vulnerable children. Tragically, these principles of good governance continue to elude the prime minister. In February 2007, two years into his second term the prime minister showed us his undemocratic colours when he abolished the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), a 1984 English piece of legislation which balances police investigation powers and the right of accused people. St. Vincent and the Grenadines crept to becoming a police state.
Equally disturbing is the grievous bodily harm committed against the Reparations movement and its call for reparatory justice when the prime minister organised the installation of the current Governor General on Emancipation Day 2019. Is this the kind of thing a true champion of reparations would do? Of course not! It is a clear message not to take the prime minister seriously on matters of black pride and consciousness.
What has the prime minister and any of his ministers of education done to fertilise African pride and consciousness through our education system? We do not have African and Caribbean history as compulsory subjects. At a minimum, a real education revolution would have done that. What has taken root in broken spaces of people’s mind, like a grugru tree on the riverbank, is the self-hating and unhealthy practice of skin bleaching under the prime minister’s decades-long watch.
The road to liberation from the vestiges of colonialism begins with us gaining the highest level of consciousness; the artificial beheading of the Queen amounts to form over substance and must not be allowed to pass for neither progressive policy nor politics.
The views expressed are those of the writer and not those of Asberth News Network. All opinion pieces must be submitted to [email protected]