The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].
Imagine the gall of Ralph Gonsalves! Imagine the utter duplicity, the bald-faced wickedness, the undisguised foolishness, the raging fear, the petulance, the brazen attempts at obfuscating the issue, the reactionary nonsense, the dissonance spewed by Ralph Gonsalves in response to the “masterstroke” of Arnhim Eustace in recognizing and welcoming Garinagu to reclaim their ancestral citizenship, even if honorary, to the land now called St Vincent and the Grenadines.
As a Vincentian of Garifuna heritage, I applaud Arnhim Eustace and look forward to the time when people of Gainagu heritage anywhere in the world can choose to become part of our nation, just as Jews are welcome to their ancestral land of Israel. Oh what a glorious day it will be when our people are finally united and to paraphrase Martin Luther King’s mantra say, “Home at last! Home at last! Thank God Almighty we are home in Yuremein at last!”
I-Witness News reported that “Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves spoke strongly against the opposition New Democratic Party’s (NDP) proposal to grant honorary citizenship to Garinagu, descendants of indigenous Vincentians who consider St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) their ancestral home”.
Just imagine a man of European descent who boasts of what “I-Man” can do or not do in SVG, now brazenly pouring cold water on the idea to discourage the righting of a historic wrong against people of Garifuna descent.
In Gonsalves’ feeble attempt to discredit Mr. Eustace’s declaration he points out that Eustace does not attend celebrations in honor of SVG National Hero, Garifuna chief Joseph Chatoyer, who was killed in 1775 while battling British occupation. He claimed credit for his party’s declaration of March 14 as National Heroes Day, establishment of Garifuna Radio, and strengthening historical connection with the Garifuna people all over the world.
All of these are window-dressing! The real task is to actually do something above and beyond the ceremonial pablum designed to appease Vincentians and their Garifuna relatives into thinking that Gonsalves and his party understand and champion their cause.
Gonsalves jumped on the bandwagon of reparations for Genocide against the Garinagu nation. Yet, when it comes to actually doing the right thing to restore the citizenship forcibly taken away from our people, Gonsalves panders and is reported to say: “Now, it’s an entirely different thing, however, if you want to tell me that wherever Garifuna is born that they must get citizenship of St Vincent and the Grenadines… I do not support that. I do not support that and Arnhim Eustace would not support that either, so he put the adjectival ‘honorary’ in front of it”
He questions: “Will he (Garifunas) also have a right to work?” And I answer: You are not creating jobs in SVG. So what phantom jobs do you think the Garinagu will be coming to SVG to take away? This is akin to the nonsense that Jamaicans argued when given the opportunity to sustain the Federation of the West Indies. They argued that small island people would be flocking to Jamaica to take their jobs and their women. But today Jamaicans are poorer than they would have been had they not torpedoed the West Indian Federation. The Jamaican economy as reflected in the value of their money is a wreck compared to the combined economy of the smaller islands. And Jamaican men and women stand in line to marry people from those same small islands that they once despised.
Gonsalves continued: “When you give them honorary citizenship, our Garifuna brothers and sisters …, are they coming out from Belize, from Nicaragua, from Honduras from Guatemala, they are coming out of those countries for jobs in St Vincent? Mr. PM, stop referring to Garinagu as your “brothers and sisters”. Your actions illustrate that you have no love for our people. So cut out the empty, deceptive words about brotherhood and sisterhood.
And about stealing jobs in SVG: Mr. PM, you have no idea what it takes to create real jobs. You have had almost 15 years to work on creating jobs in SVG and have failed miserably. Given the opportunity, Garifuna entrepreneurs can show you how jobs are created. After all they have survived the atrocities of racism, colonialism, attempted genocide, and brutal expulsion from their homeland to succeed in foreign lands. When we were marooned up in the mountains of Greggs and Wd. Lowmans we survived through our strength of self-reliance. Therefore, your attempt to sow dissension between Vincentians and the Garinagu nation will not work to your advantage. Your ancestral ploy of divide and conquer is well understood by Vincentians and the Garinagu. We will not allow a replay.
Another thing, Mr. PM, your question about jobs underscores that, as Ivan O’Neal suggested and I paraphrase: “Ralph Gonsalves is not a graduate in finance. Therefore he is a financial dunce working as finance minister”. And so your ignorance and paucity of knowledge in economic development is highlighted in reference to this jobs question. You might have read the history of economic thought in college but it appears that you missed the real tools of economic analysis.
If thousands of Garinagu were to come to SVG, they would be bringing potent skills for private sector jobs creation and effective demand for the purchase and consumption of goods and services that will power economic development in our beloved Hairouna. They will infuse a dying economy with effective demand to power the employment of our people in the production of private sector goods and services. That is a lesson for you to learn. As a qualified economist, Eustace can see the potential. You are either blind to the possibilities or posturing to fool the people. In fact, I get a nagging feeling that you are a spent force, a failed politician ready for retirement to the dustbin of Vincentian history.
And Gonsalves continues: “They are coming for your houses? But what are they going to have? Just a piece of people (paper) saying ‘I declare you to be an honorary citizen?’ You giving them a passport?”
These are all nonsensical distractions! They are attempts to steal the Eustace initiative. What houses are the PM referring to – those government built houses that are cracking up and falling apart? No Mr. PM, no one in their right mind would be coming to SVG and expect for you to build them homes or to take away Vincentian properties. To do so would be to put lives in peril.
Those questions were put up to muddy the waters. They simply aimed at sowing seeds of discord among our people so that the real issues will be buried by rhetoric. And, the legitimate quest of the Garinagu and the Vincentian people would become stymied if we buy into this devious scheme of the PM.
In fact, Gonsalves’ real political gamesmanship becomes evident when he states: “I want the people in East Kingstown to hear this,” referring to the constituency that Eustace represents in parliament. He wants to transform the issue into a political opportunity for his party. We must note that Eustace does not hang his party’s future on this issue. In fact on the issues of crime prevention, private sector jobs, agricultural development, police inappropriate action, blurring of politics and civil service duties, accountability and punishment for infractions made by civil servants, etc., Eustace shines while Gonsalves falters, double-speaks and ducks.
Gonsalves continues: “Because for sure, you have more Garifunas who are not Vincentians outside than the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines as a whole,” said Gonsalves, who estimates the Garifuna population to be 800,000. Who are these Garifunas who are not Vincentians?
And I say: Mr. Gonsalves are you intellectually blind to the opportunities? There is economic strength in numbers. Let me remind you that at one time the developed nations used to look down on India and China claiming that due to their large populations those nations were doomed to under-development. Today we know that those two nations are strident economic powers due to the large populations that power their economies. The more Garinagu we get to come to SVG, the better!
And how can a Garifuna not be a Vincentian or have claim to Vincentian citizenship if they originated from the expelled Garinagu of Yuremein? How can the descendants of Joseph Chatoyer be scorned as non-Vincentian when we “appear” to hold Chatoyer in high esteem? Gonsalves is confused!
In fact, it appears that Mr. Gonsalves is acting as a person who claims sour grapes when s/he cannot originate or steal the ideas and issues of his/her opponents. How can Vincentians even consider re-electing such a charlatan and his party?
And so Gonsalves postulates: “By all means, let us strengthen the historical and cultural ties, which we have been doing and if you have a Garifuna overseas who is the descendant of a Garifuna here, you get citizenship by descent and there is a process for that…. What does this involve? A passport? I need to know, the country needs to know. … Let’s have serious people making serious proposals,” he reportedly said.
Sure, Mr. PM: You want to continue treating Vincentians as mushrooms – keeping them in the dark and feeding them a load of bull manure while you and your cronies continue to lord it over them. In fact you have good reasons to fear the return of the Garinagu. They are enlightened, creative, battle-scarred people who value their independence and would not be hoodwinked by a backward regime. You will not have to travel the world to beg for money to support the Garinagu. We are independent persons who are used to rely on ourselves and immediate family rather than seek government hand-outs.
“The unintended effect of this proposal here by Mr. Eustace is to make people in this country get very upset as we seek to do more and more things to make the joinder between people of Garifuna descent all over the world, because this is their spiritual home. Do they want to give honorary citizens the right to vote now? You going give Garifuna the right to vote, but Vincentians who overseas don’t have the right to vote? You going put Garifunas above them who ain’t born in St Vincent and who are not descended directly? So he has to tell us if his proposal involves giving them a passport, giving them the right to work here, giving them the right of permanent residence,” Gonsalves reportedly said.
This is the red herring! Yes, by raising the red herring of right to vote, Mr. PM, you are trying to pit Vincentians in the Diaspora against our “Garinagu brothers and sisters”. It is not Eustace that is getting Vincentians very upset. It is your foolish mutterings and devious tactics that will forge stronger ties between the Garinagu. Just imagine, you are jumping up and down claiming that Europeans owe reparations to the Garinagu. Yet now you are standing in the door saying: “Arwee no warn aryo to come inna SVG cause you might warn fe get the vote.” How devious and forked of tongue can you be? This reminds me of George Wallace’s proclamation after election as Alabama’s governor in 1963: “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”. Do you remember how that ended?
Now, all of these posturing, pandering, questioning, and deliberately acting to confuse the issue of Garinagu right to citizenship in their ancestral homeland expose Gonsalves for what we know he really is: A duplicitous politician who on the one hand claims to champion reparations for the wrongs heaped on Garinagu and Africans by European colonizers and slave traders while on the other hand trying to bar the victims from obtaining the ultimate reward of being repatriated to the land of their ancestors, if they so desire. It is a testament that the PM is bankrupt of good ideas to transform our nation and cannot stand the notion that anyone else can formulate ideas for the solution of our national problems.
Eustace has seized the initiative on this issue and others. He did not pussyfoot around to announce his intentions. He boldly declared his earnest intentions and he has no duty to answer the barbed questions of Ralph Gonsalves at this stage. Let’s start with honorary citizenship for all people of Garinagu heritage. But let it not stop there. Ultimately, let’s work to gradually incorporate Garinagu who so desire, into the fabric of the Vincentian nation and citizenry.
The economic and cultural benefits flowing to our nation from such a re-union is only limited to our creativity or lack there-of. The opportunities accruing to the Garinagu people will be no less valuable. This can be a win-win initiative for Vincentians at home and Garinagu everywhere. While the political ramifications will take time to sort out, there should be no questioning of the rights of our Garifuna brothers and sisters to citizenship in their ancestral Yuremein. We must not squander this opportunity or allow deceitful people to divert us from electing a government that will work to bring this matter to fruition.
The God that I worship is not asleep. He blessed the Garinagu to survive thus far. He will continue to bless us to re-unite our people in our Blessed Hairouna! Arnhim Eustace continues to exhibit his sincerity towards SVG and the Garifuna while Ralph Gonsalves appears to employ deceitful tactics, backwardness and ignorance to keep Vincentians divided, weak and unenlightened. My fellow Vincentians, let’s unite to defeat the forces of evil. May God bless Vincentians and Garinagu wherever we may be domiciled. And may God deliver our blessed Hairouna from the agents of deceit!
Vinci Vin Samuel
Vinci Vin Samuel is a Vincentian and Garinagu national currently resident in the USA. He writes on current affairs including labour market economics, agricultural economics, competition law and economic regulations.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].