Christmas Message 2013 by Hon. Arnhim Eustace, Leader of the Opposition and President of the New Democratic Party
Christmas season in days of plenty was a spectacular affair in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and without doubt the Christian and secular world over. In SVG, I remember the days when in practically every household a frenzied cleaning, the most thorough of the year, was undertaken. Few of the homes you passed around the evenings of the 22nd, 23rd, and even Christmas Eve, did not have busy families milling in and out flogging rugs, wiping windows spotless and hanging new curtains, as Morris chair, dining table and couch stood outside naked.
Walk down any of Kingstown’s main streets as massive crowds of people laden with shiny plastic bags tied in very telling shapes, moved noisily in and out of stores. Linoleum for kitchens and bathrooms unrolled in the middle of stores or spilled out into the street by teenagers employed for the Christmas holidays, was measured and cut only after customers and any one around with an opinion, selected from the best of patterns and colours. The irony of plastic flowers, short stemmed or long, garish colours, even blue, poking out of shopping bags in a land otherwise known for its natural flora. Little children jumping excitedly as their eyes followed as a toy, high out of their reach, was passed from clerk to parent to cashier.
Driving out of town sandwiched between department store delivery trucks belching diesel smoke, ambling slowly up Sion Hill, as men sat precariously atop spanking new mattresses, living room suites and appliances swaddled in plastic, destined for any part of the country. And, at almost any given hour at E.T. Joshua Airport see crowds outside the arrival lounge, hush each time the smoked-glass door to the arrivals lounge opened, every man bent sideways, trying to catch a glimpse of a relative inside, then out would come, one by one, flashy travellers looking tired and happy, sweating from both the heat of home and the effort of pulling behind them a big lopsided suitcase with a strip of pretty cloth on the handle and the Customs’ chalk mark on the side.
At night, it seemed VINLEC was among the happiest, as almost every other house in each neighbourhood was draped with a string or two of flashing, Christmas lights.
There is as much to learn from our lean days as our fat. As our economy declines, that which we took for granted in Christmases past is no more. The delivery trucks seen occasionally going up Sion Hill are not laden with new furniture and appliances, but increasingly with barrels as our overseas relatives pitch in to help. The lines of arrivals at ET Joshua Airport are fewer and shorter than in Christmases past. Even the Christmas lights on stores and homes are disappearing. VINLEC is not happy (nor for that matter are we happy with VINLEC).
Perhaps in our losses, we have also gained. We value friends and family more. We appreciate the sacrifices they are willing to make for us and vice versa. Phone calls and visits are so much more important. Having a little bit of food is reason to give thanks to God that we have food at all.
Our country urgently needs a change — a change in management and direction. But when that happens let us not forget what we have learned from these harder times. In spite of our relatively unhappy circumstances this Christmas Season, let us celebrate the fact that we are surviving. And, in 2014, let us work together to help SVG thrive.
On behalf of the New Democratic Party and my family, I wish Vincentians the world over a Happy Christmas! I fervently hope for a brighter 2014.