Prince Harry stands in front of pieces of art produced by student competitors in the Ministry of Fisheries’ essay and art competition under the theme “No Extinction In Our Generation. Save Our Sea Turtles” in Colonairie on Saturday. (Photo: Ovid Burke/IWN)

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]

Upon first hearing of Prince Harry’s official visit to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I was immediately intrigued as to what he felt the significance of his trip to our shores would be. Prince Harry carries with him the legacies of a monarchy whose viability and continued existence are inescapably grounded in the horrifying transatlantic triangular slave trade, which saw our African ancestors forcibly taken from their homeland and enslaved on British-owned plantations in the West Indies as “proprietary” labour in the cultivation of cotton, sugar and tobacco for consumption in Great Britain.

Despite the revulsion of this historical reality, the delightful irony of the Vincentian socio-political dynamic with England is that we still resolutely retain many of the institutions and practices that were established in these parts by the British colonists. I, having studied lived and worked in the U.K., see the allure. So my scrutiny of Prince Harry’s interactions and pronouncements are coloured by this backdrop. Attending the Governor General’s cocktail in the Prince’s honour Saturday evening and viewing the coverage on social media of his earlier island tour, he seemed to navigate the occasions with the royal diplomacy that one would expect of a young man who, from birth, has had to perform ceremonial duties on countless occasions, but in fairness to his independent spirit and character, it was nostalgically reminiscent of the gentle persona of his late mother Diana, which he appears to have inherited and made even cooler. Yet it did little to satisfy my curiosity.

Grateful as we are for the opportunities offered to Vincentian nationals who serve in the British Armed Forces and other opportunities which are not immediately obvious to the ordinary man, having toured our beautiful yet underdeveloped country, having witnessed the resilience of our people and having heard their plights, is it wrong for me to ask Harry whether he feels that there should be definitive moves for enhanced trade relations between the U.K and SVG after losing the preferential market for exported bananas? or for me to ask him whether he would support the provision of vocational and educational opportunities for the ambitious peoples of SVG in the form of scholarships or subsidized fees to U.K. schools and universities, to name a couple, especially when those opportunities are currently being offered to us by nations with whom we have no similar historical linkages?

It is true that most executive powers have now devolved to the Government and Houses of Parliament in U.K. and this may serve as a constraining factor for the Prince. However, the global social cultural and political influence of the monarchy has not waned. Prince Harry is sensitive to this as reflected in his charitable work in various parts of the world, including Africa, where assistance is offered in the fight against HIV and AIDS. We are a proud people not looking for handouts, but a fair shot at empowerment and realising our true potential. For some, the question of reparations goes too far, but, for others, the foregoing initiatives and others of a similar nature represent a meaningful affirmation of our nations’ historical ties.

As Harry departed the cruise ship terminal understandably glazy-eyed from his whirlwind tour, there was much regret that I never got the opportunity to ask him those pertinent questions. Notwithstanding, it was indeed a pleasure for the people of SVG to host you and a number of us now eagerly await your answers. In the interim, I remain intrigued.

R. Akin S. John

PHOTOS: Prince Harry visits St. Vincent

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].

7 replies on “My questions to you, Prince Harry”

  1. Akin, how can you say with a straight face that, “We are a proud people not looking for handouts,” when your whole piece is about begging for handouts: (1) slavery reparations, (2) a new regime of agricultural assistance and protectionism, and (3) scholarships, etc, to British universities, “to name a couple” on a very long list that I’m sure you have in mind.

    I’m also sure that your proud and independent father would not be amused if he read this whining plea for help.

    1. Brown Boy USA says:

      C. ben, I shared the same sentiment regarding those statements, especially “We are a proud people not looking for hangouts.” Are we really that blind to what have become of our people or are we just playing ignorant to the reality that we have lost who we once were as a people, independent and proud? These days, we constantly turn to others and use international perspective to deal with our problems. Each country is unique. Therefore, we have to state looking at things from our own Vincentian perspective and stop looking else where and at other people to solve our problems. Unless we can do that as a nation and a people then our dignity and proud will continue to erode and we will become a people who has completely lost its culture and peaceful way of life only to have our minds being re-colonialized and continue this dependency mentality.

      1. What is truly ironic is that this man’s father, Stanley “Stalky” John, came from a very humble background but through hard work, resolve, and a desire to succeed became a highly successful and well respected lawyer as well as a leading Labour Party official and parliamentarian.

        Stalky John has never begged anyone for any handouts!

        His son, also a lawyer and partner in his father’s firm, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth but nevertheless has internalizing our nasty dependency syndrome.

        The same thing applies to our Prime Minister who is constantly travelling all over the world proudly begging for money from countries many of which are actually poorer than we are.

        Shame on him and shame on us.

  2. Jaga D. Ashanti says:

    The suggestion of a fovoured partnership, provisions of scholarships and economical rates for further educational training, as potentially a meaningful affirmation of SVG’s historical ties with Britain, does not exemplify a “whining plea for help”! This criticism runs the risk of giving the impression, that its writer’s objective was intended to ridicule or to provoke, but not to make a reasonable assessment of the commentary. Why?

    “Enhanced trade” is not a distasteful prospect. It is a pervasive feature of bilateral relations between countries and economic blocs alike globally. Regardless of whether there existed the horrendous historical imbalances such as obtained between Britain and its former colonies in the West Indies.

    Regarding “handouts” not being in sync with Vincentians’ pride and independence, one wonders if benefiting as they did from the Marshall Plan after World War II, compromised the pride and independence of Europeans, including Germans, French, Italians & Britain. Even if it did, the US giving over $13 billions (approximately $120 billions in current dollar value as of mid 2016), of economic support to help rebuild Western Europe’s economy after World War II for a period of 8 years, generated growth, because it created demand from foreign countries for US products.

    How about the permanent financial patronage by the US for Israel, which has accumulated to almost $125 billion since after the War? Although most of this aid in recent time is earmarked for military purposes, earlier much of it was targeted to direct economic benefit and in any event such massive financial inflows release nationally generated revenues for non-military use. Some may hold the view that this is institutionalized sponsorship which is inimical to Israelis’ pride and independence? That is hardly to gain any currency with the Israelis though! But to be sure, the view that Vincentians should be different in that regard has its own quaint validity.

    Critically, favoured relations between countries is ordinarily aimed at generating mutual economic social and cultural benefits. The apparently donor almost invariably uses it as a means of advancing the economic and social well-being of its own people no less that providing opportunities for the less advantaged partner. We need not always betray a tendency of undue hyper-sensitive or insecurity about all such associations.

    Whilst there is merit in tailoring solutions to fit our peculiar conditions and circumstances, historically, culturally, etc. there are certain fundamentals about creating a catalyst for and generating growth in disadvantaged socio-economic communities and regions, which can be gleaned from experience gained in other other times and places and which ought not to be ignored.

    Although we may redesign the wheel appropriately, there are occasions when we may not have to conceptually replace it, in order to beat a successful path, especially if this is motivated principally by a desire to prove our independence.

    At the same time, there is much to be said for being sensitive to the necessity of engendering self-reliance, industry and creativity, as integral attributes in our national ethos.

    Akin’s comments on the Prince’s visit portray a matured, and enlightened perspective, via a commendable diplomatic approach, which address issues beyond the optics and social symbolism that the British Royal’s brief call on these shores have engendered in the consciousness of many Vincentians. His dad ought indeed to be pleased about Akin’s effort.

    1. The differences between the examples you give and our situation should be obvious:

      (1) Europe was thriving before Hitler and it thrived again after the Marshall Plan. Why? Because the prerequisites for wealth creation and enhancement were never destroyed. We have only sucked up foreign aid like a sponge because our potential, since the demise of massive estate sugar production, has been minimal. And what do we have to give back to Great Britain in exchange for trade preferences — exactly what do we have to sell to them that they could buy elsewhere more cheaply? And how do we expect to subvert WTO agreements outlawing subsidies?

      We have become a nation of beggars — from the very top to the very bottom — that no amount of foreign aid will ever change.

      (2) Most of the non-military aid given to Israel has always been from Jews living in the diaspora while the military aid has been given to satisfy American strategic foreign policy interests, particularly to balance the aid given by the former Soviet Union (and now Russia) as well as the rich oil producing Arab nations (who were determined push the Jews into the sea), thereby destroying America’s only true friend and ally in the entire Middle East. It’s called trying to maintain a balance of power and influence.

      Vincentians in the diaspora are reluctant to send us aid (except to family members) or invest in their homeland, not because they are less righteous than the Jews but because they know that such investment will be wasted either because (1) our investment opportunities are so limited or (2) their monies would be sucked up or pissed away by the political and bureaucratic elites.

  3. Every man is a King says:

    Colonial days are long done.We gain independent from Britain, but yet their Queen is still the head of state of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. As a black vincentian that so called Prince aren’t welcome in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The airport needed money to finish, but you do not see the so called royal family helping vincentian out to move forward with our economy. Black people and black politicians in the Caribbean acted like fools with they see white people. Europeans doesn’t respect black royalty, but black people act the fool when they see the British royal family. I am not impress if it not helping the people of SVG with jobs and the economy.

  4. Every man is a King says:

    The people in Saint that was talking about reparations from Britain should have tell the so-called Prince to let his grandmother give the people in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines reparations for slavery. Me as a black vincentian would never accept a white man or woman as my Queens or king! I am a Black vincentian, I am not a British. It’s time for the people of SVG to remove the Queen of England as head of state, because it do not benefit us with anything. He visited svg is white supremacy showing off their still colonial power.

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