KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves almost fell through his chair during the Queen’s Birthday Parade last month.
But his near flooring had nothing to do with his body mass or the structuralal integrity of the furniture.
Rather, it resulted from the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force Band playing “Rule Britannia” during the event.
Gonsalves, during a press conference Monday, voiced his feelings on the band’s playing of the song. He was at the time speaking of “backwardness” in this country.
Gonsalves mentioned former prime minister, Sir James Mitchell’s taking along with him an American who Gonsalves said does not understand local criminal law or the Constitution when he appeared as a guess on “Burden of Proof” during the 1990s.
Sir James during his appearance on the show tried to explain the local judicial process as two Americans were charged with the murder of a Bequia man.
Gonsalves, who was the lawyer for the accused Americans, succeeded in having the case against them dismissed.
Gonsalves, whose government campaigned during the 2009 Constitution Referendum for the removal of the Queen as this country’s head of state, said he was not anti-American or anti-British.
He, however, noted that while “Rule Britannia” says “Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:/ Britons never will be slaves”, the country had colonised many other nations and enslaves the thinking of their populace.
He said that he “could understand” the Police Bank’s playing of “God Save Our Gracious Queen” at the event, since it was her birthday.
But when the Governor General Deputy was inspecting the troops, “they strike up ‘Rule Britannia’,” Gonsalves said.
“I mean, where I there I want to drop through my chair. I haven’t told one person a thing about this thing. I haven’t spoken to the band man, I haven’t spoken to the Commissioner of Police, I just take it all in silence. But sometimes, as I say, I must be permitted to talk a few things if they are on top ah me chest and I am in this business long enough to talk these things,” he told reporters.
“… And even those who unthinkingly play ‘Rule Britannia’, they are good people but they just have to remember the context and where we are and where we live,” said Gonsalves who have often called on citizens to shake off the vestiges of colonisation and colonialism.
“They are an excellent band, I love it how they play good music but not ‘Rule Britannia’. I would understand how they play ‘God Save Our Gracious Queen’, because it’s her birthday. How ‘Rule Britannia’ comes in there now?” Gonsalves said.
This country — which gained independence in 1979 — is one of several in the Caribbean, and including Canada in the western Hemisphere, that are former colonies of Britain that retains the British Monarch as its head of state.