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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].

The headline of the July 31, 2015 Searchlight newspaper reads “Garifuna Politics,” a reference to the visit to our country of a Garifuna delegation headed by Dr. Wellington Ramos, vice president of the United Garifuna Association, to discuss the promise made by the leader of the New Democratic Party, Arnhim Eustace, to grant “honorary citizenship” to our exiled founding people should his party gain power in the next election.

The visit of this group and comments from Professor Ramos have touched a raw nerve at Searchlight, whose July 31, 2015 editorial, presumably written by Clare Keizer, the editor of the newspaper, bizarrely accuses the Garifuna leader of threatening “the Vincentian-Garifuna compact”.

This “compact,” as she calls it, consists entirely of emotive but materially empty symbolism and celebration: “elevation of the Garifuna Paramount Chief Chatoyer as SVG’s first and only national hero … and the living experience of our national holiday”.

Ms Keizer, or her proxy, goes on to say, “It is therefore with deep unease that we are witnessing a breach of the concord that should underpin the relationship between the Garifuna people and Vincentians.”

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What this “concord” and “compact” consist of besides a one-day annual holiday during which only a handful of people attend the associated ceremonials and the granting of national hero status to Chatoyer, a hero few Vincentians know much about, gestures that can never come close to repairing or atoning for the brutal damage done to our first people, she fails to reveal.

The editorial goes on to claim that blame for “breach of the concord” lies with Arnhim Eustace for mischievously introducing the idea of “honorary citizenship” and Dr. Ramos for presumptuously stating that he has lost “all respect” for our esteemed Prime Minister, the Honorable Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, for quickly rejecting it out of hand and claiming that the Garifuna would descend on us to claim our jobs and homes.

This is why the editorial is so bizarre. Mr. Eustace, surely has the right — indeed duty — to make promises that he feels will either enhance the country’s well being or atone for historical injustices. The leader of the opposition claims honorary citizenship for the exiled Garifuna will do both. Whether this will prove to be true remains to be seen. But he has every right to make this proposal, regardless of whether Clare Keizer believes it is mischievous or not.

Equally bizarre is Ms Keizer’s claim that Dr. Ramos’ comments are “utterly feckless, ill-considered, and completely demeaning” because, “It is one thing for Mr. Eustace to attack the Prime Minister … It is quite another thing for Mr. Ramos or any other Garifuna leader to attack a sitting Prime Minister” because “morally, the only ground the Garifuna can and must occupy in the context of Vincentian national politics is complete neutrality”.

This is sheer nonsense. Does she mean that only Vincentians, whether politicians or not, can criticize the views of other Vincentians, whether politicians or not? Is Ms Keizer unaware of the manner in which various Caribbean Prime Ministers and other elected officials have attacked their foes elsewhere in the Caribbean on the political platform of their ideological soul mates during various election campaigns? Is she unaware of the way various world leaders breached her peculiar sense of morality by verbally assaulting Adolf Hitler during the 1930s when he began persecuting the Jews? Is she unaware of the way Barack Obama has just shamed the leadership of various West African countries — in their presence on the same platform — for their oppression of homosexuals during his visit to the region? Is she unaware of the way the American leadership vilified the Cuban leadership for over 50 years and is now damning the Venezuelan leadership in the same way?

Equally specious is her aversion to Professor Ramos’ “poisonous” separation of reparations for the Garifuna from reparations for slavery because he said that “the Garifuna were not slaves”. Indeed, they were not, which, together with their tiny numbers compared to the descendants of African slaves, is why they are a mere appendage to the Gonsalves-led reparations movement, something the Garifuna well know. More important, the Garifuna must also know that the reparations efforts have no chance of success, on the one hand, and that only the independent and sovereign nation-state of SVG has the legal and moral obligation to return at least some of the land that was stolen from them after the second Carib war, on the other.

Let us hope and pray that other Garifuna leaders follow Dr. Ramos’ example in demanding social justice for our First People.

C. ben-David

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

2 replies on “Garifuna politics, Vincy-style”

  1. Clement Percival says:

    I dare Ms. Keizer to have this published in Searchlight. Let us see if she will be “feckless” to her Party Leader, or better yet, enter a belated disclaimer that the said Editorial was not of her doing!!

  2. C.ben-David, question. In what capacity did Dr Ramos came to Vincyland?

    I was under the impression that Dr Ramos was coming to Vincyland to speak solely on the issue of GARIFUNA, but lo and behold I tune in to their press conference and Dr Ramos sound like a candidate of the NDP! I think the Searchlight Editorial is on point; Dr Ramos should have taken a neutral position politically, at least in the public sphere and stay above the fray. I think he is outta place to be getting involved in the local politics by having a war of words in the media about the Prime Minister and taking a political stance with the NDP .

    By the way, when President Obama spoke of GAY RIGHTS in Kenya, that speech was geared to a segment of the American society who have a die-hard interest on the issue. Obama knows fully well that such an issue have no political current in Kenya but would have been remiss not to at least say something on the subject of gay rights. And if memory serve me right, there were no disparaging remarks made by President Obama about the leader of the country.

    There was no need to have the GARIFUNA delegation coming to Vincyland at this time, given that the country is in election mode. Plus the NDP had already knocked out Gonsalves on this issue, so dazed and confused was Gonsalves, he was uttering nonsense. It would be no surprise to me if folks start saying that the GARIFUNA issue is nothing but a political stunt rather than a genuine attempt to foster a more deeper connection and understanding with our ancestral roots. And who could blame them, given the display of Dr Ramos.

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