An opposition lawmaker says that while he welcomes the “Renewal @40” initiative to celebrate St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ 40th anniversary of independence this year, the nation should not subject itself to “revisionist history”.
In his budget address last week, Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves said “Renewal @40” is “a wide-ranging and multifaceted programme of reflection and reinvention that ranges from the cultural to the infrastructural”.
In his contribution to the debate, Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock, said he thinks the move is a good one and has no problems with this being highlighted.
“I simply want to ensure that in doing so, we do not subject ourselves to what I call revisionist history because the year 1979 is a unique year, a special year in the annals of Vincentian history,” Leacock said.
He noted that 1979 was the year of the La Soufriere eruption and the year that SVG placed second in the Caribbean Football Union cup in Suriname.
“It was a breakthrough. And I want to pause on that because many of our outstanding footballers and sports men from that era are still around. And if anything else, in this year, I want the Guy Lowes, the Rawlty, Barrow, Dorian Phillips, Paul O’Garro and the whole shebang, I want them to be honoured this year for what they brought to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Leacock said that 1979 was also the year of the Union Island uprising.
“I remember as an officer [of the Cadet Force] then, being at the Grammar School, on standby as bulldozers were repainted in camouflage to do what I don’t know up to today. But that’s how far we had gone to defend ourselves in that uprising.”
Leacock said that 1979 was also the year of the SVG’s independence.
“You begin to get the picture why I say it was a historical, it was a strong year. It’s the year when Scakes sang our second anthem, ‘Our Nation Is Born’, a masterpiece up to today.”
Leacock also said that in 1979, he and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves were also in the same political party, the UPM.
“And I’ll always remember our meeting in Diamond on what became the Earlene Horne Square, trying to represent St. Vincent. I think the Honourable Speaker [Jomo Thomas], Gonsalves and myself are the only politicians here of that era.
“I still can see Jomo Thomas, young activist, running about in his sandals, and black hands and coat because he was stencilling off the magazines of that time.
“… And ’79 was also the start of significant working papers for the formation of the Coast Guard of St. Vincent, of which I paid a pivotal role.
“I say that, Mr. Speaker, because it is easy for some of you to speak about it, but I can stand here because I lived it,” Leacock said.
He said a commemorative coin was produced when the Cadet Band marked its 50th anniversary and that he was asking for something similar to be done for the 1979 footballers.
“Because in 81, they returned in Puerto Rico, our game placed St. Vincent second on the map and I am proud Mr. Speaker to know that my football administration history carried on because when I left football, we were first in CONCACAF and 73 in the world,” Leacock said.