KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — Minister of Agriculture Montgomery Daniel yesterday made snide remarks about the nation’s African and East Indian descendants as he responded to a protester who reportedly insulted his Garifuna lineage during a banana farmers’ demonstration outside his ministry on Friday.
“… one of the placards that I read on the [picket] line said ‘Gomery must go’. Well, I tell you, I know where I come from. I know where I can go. Comrades, from an individual, I heard certain comments. But I say to you, I am born of Carib descendants. Nobody ain’t gotta tell me that. I born right here, nobody ain’t got to tell me that. Comrades, no boat aint bring me here in chains and I did not come here in indenturedship. So, I know where I come from. And comrades, I know where I am going,” Daniel said.
He was speaking at the Unity Labour Party’s rally in Sandy Bay, where the majority of the residents are descendants of the nation’s indigenous Garifuna.
Daniel was at the time speaking about a meeting with banana farmers, some of whom, he said, are not interested in the banana industry but “in something else”. He emphasised that he won the 2001, 2005, and 2010 general elections and promised to win again if he contest the next elections.
“So tell Bowman and company that Montgomery Daniel know where he comes from. And Montgomery Daniel know where he going. And is the people of North Windward to decide whether or not I stay or go,” Daniel further said.
Daniel’s remarks came one day after Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, in a speech to the United Nations, emphasised the country’s Garifuna heritage.
“The people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have a long and proud history of resistance to slavery, bigotry and genocide, dating back to the heroic resistance of the Garifuna peoples against British aggression in the late 1700s,” Gonsalves told the U.N. General Assembly Saturday morning.
This year is the International Year for People of African Descent and Gonsalves, in his speech, called for an apology and reparation for the Atlantic Slave Trade.
“While we celebrate the noble heroism of the famous and the faceless who resisted racist colonial hegemony, we must continue to confront the legacy of this barbarism and continuing injustice. The wounds of this era are deep, the crimes against humanity are clear, and the necessity for apology and reparations are undeniable,” he said.
Responding to a question at a town hall meeting with Vincentians in Brooklyn Saturday night, Gonsalves said the “Garifuna issue [is not] an esoteric matter for a fringe group. No! It is central to our being as our people”.
He noted that in each of his at Independence and to the United Nations, he speaks of addresses the issue of the genocide committed against the Garifuna people.
“Our government has a real sensitivity to it and for the promotion of the Garifuna history and culture,” Gonsalves said, noting that his Unity Labour Party government declared Chatoyer a national hero.
Gonsalves, in his response, further said that he thinks it is important to teach the Garifuna language in Vincentian schools.
He, however, said that suggesting that Garifuna should be the language of communication is SVG would be “an absurdity”.
“You can’t wipe away the fact that you are an English-speaking nation and that, in fact everybody in the world want to learn to speak English and Mandarin for the modern world in which we are living and in which we have to be engaged in production and a lot of other social intercourse,” Gonsalves said.