TAIPEI, Taiwan: – Prime Minster of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has told Vincentian students in this Asian capital that they should consider their options outside of SVG, pursue wealth, but remember to help others to succeed.
“… [B]e good neighbourly and think about others and how you can help others and work in solidarity with others because it’s solidary that has brought you thus far,” he, however, said.
Gonsalves addressed the Vincentian community here during a dinner on Friday, April 22.
The prime minister was in Taipei to discuss with the Ma Ying-jeou government issues of importance to SVG before Gonsalves attends the Royal Wedding in London this weekend.
“Please, do well for yourself, your family, your country, and your civilisation,” Gonsalves told the gathering of mostly students, which included his daughter Isis Gonsalves, who is studying Mandarin Chinese here.
“Don’t let anybody tell you that because you want to make some money it is something which is bad. … [M]aking a good living for yourself and not thinking about other people, that is what is bad,” Gonsalves said.
“I want you to have all the supreme confidence for your achievements in life. The sky is the limit. The only people who can hold you back is yourself. … Every setback, you must turn it into an advance. … You can be who you want to and you start on a foundation greater than what I and those of my generation started,” Gonsalves said.
He spoke of the challenges he had in getting an education as a boy in rural St. Vincent. The probability of his becoming a successful banana farmer far outweighed his chances of his getting a secondary education, he said.
Gonsalves told the students that while intelligence is “the matriculation” for higher level education, “without the community solidarity, you would not be here.
He said this “community solidary” is “expressed through public policy and the government” and the between SVG and Taiwan.
“So, don’t feel badly about doing well. Do well; but look out also for other people,” Gonsalves said.
He told the students that having achieved a university degree the odds are that their children and succeeding generations will also have tertiary education.
“That is what our history has been like. We build on every succeeding generation,” Gonsalves said, adding that Vincentians studying in Taiwan “have an especial opportunity”.
He said that an individual who is proficient in English can communicate with half of the world but if he also speaks Mandarin Chinese he can communicate with three-quarters of the globe.
“And I want you all to look at St. Vincent and the Grenadines not just in a parochial way,” he said, noting that while some students will work in SVG, others will work within the Caribbean region or internationally.
“I have absolutely no problem with that because when you go overseas, wherever you live, you can’t take St. Vincent out of you. And, you can’t take your families out of you. That means you send home money and you help to bring and raise the rest of the family. That’s how it has been. And that’s how we will do it better because you are doing it at a higher level up the chain in the international division of labour,” Gonsalves said.
“You are young, you are bright. What you need to have with that is … a profound understanding that you are a part of an independent authentic civilisation called the Caribbean civilisation, where you are not better than anybody but nobody is better than you. And, you walk with your Caribbeanness and the Vincentian particularity of that Caribbeanness, where it becomes a noise in your blood, an echo in your bones,” said Gonsalves, who is into his third term as prime minister.
“… Not just a question of wearing it on your sleeve but to imbibe the authentic values of the civilisation which has moulded you. It doesn’t call for chauvinism or narrow nationalism. You have that bedrock and you are then able to embrace universal and internationalist values,” he added.
Gonsalves said that his government had sped up the infrastructural development of SVG since it came to office in 2001 and said that this will translate into votes.
“But over the long-haul, the most important and most lasting thing … will be the training and the education…. I consider it my most important lifework the issue relating to creating opportunities for every person to be educated,” he said.
He said that having already achieved universal secondary education, SVG will this year attain universal early childhood education, with a goal of having at least one university graduate in each of the nation’s 33,000 households by 2025.
Gonsalves’ delegation included Taiwan’s ambassador to SVG, Weber Shih; Director of the Agency of Public Information in Kingstown, S. Jimmy Prince; his wife, Eloise Gonsalves, and a member of his security detail.