Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.(iWN file photo)

By Jomo Sanga Thomas

(“Plain Talk”, March 6, 2020)

“We can make it if we try/just a little harder/If we just give one more try/that would be much sweeter” — Black Stalin

Speaking to an appreciative audience at the University of St Martin, Jomo Sanga Thomas, the former Speaker of the House of Assembly, in an attempt to answer the question “Who will own our Caribbean Future” drew on the treasure chest of Caribbean intellectual and cultural talents. Black Stalin remains an inspiration.

Thomas, keynote speaker at the event which brought to an end the month-long celebration to mark Black History Month 2020, told the audience (that) to gain an appreciation of the topic, ‘we must first analyze from whence we came, take stock of where we are now, and then see who is in the best position to chart and dominate the future.’

Thomas reminded the audience that the history of the people of the Caribbean did not begin with the arrival of the colonial enslavers from Europe. The truth, he noted, European conquest and domination of our region interrupted our history. ‘There was a thriving civilization all across the Caribbean before the Europeans arrived. They committed genocide against the indigenous inhabitants, reducing that population from about 3,000,000 in the 1600s to about 30,000.’

“This is genocide,” Thomas told his listeners. ‘But the genocide did not stop there. Millions of Africans were brought in to fill the void following the mass killing of the indigenous people. By the time slavery was abolished, another genocide was committed.’

Thomas told the audience that the European enslavers and colonizers justified their inhumane treatment of the indigenous people and then Africans, claimed that the indigenous people committed two sins: They engaged in sodomy and were cannibals. Africans they claimed were less than human and most fundamentally, had no souls.

This tactic of demonization is a tried and tested tool that has been perfected over the centuries. In modern times, it is used to destroy the good name and efforts Fidel and the Cuba Revolution, Manley and his democratic socialist experiment in Jamaica, Maurice Bishop and the Grenadian Revolution and more recently Presidents Chavez and Maduro and Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

Thomas reminded the audience that the decolonization project that began in 1962 with the independence of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica and resulted in the formation of CARICOM, a unit consisting of 14 independent countries, remains incomplete.

He pointed to the fact that currently there remain even more islands in our region that maintain a colonial status.

French: Guadeloupe, Martinique, Cayenne or French Guyana, St Martin

English: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands – Virgin Gordo and Tortola, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands

United States: Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands – St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. JohnSt Croix

Thomas traced the efforts at decolonization beginning with the formation of the West Indies Federation in 1958, and noted that while many, particularly the former colonizers do not want to accept it, the Caribbean was ill-prepared for the burdens and responsibility of independence.

 He noted that during the period of enslavement, the Caribbean was celebrated in Europe as the most prized piece of real estate in the world. This was because of the enormous riches which the free labour of our ancestors bestowed on the colonial enslavers. It is well known that the riches of Caribbean slavery funded the industrial revolution in England and other European countries.

Thomas told his audience that on any indices of life – education, health, roads, hospitals and other infrastructural projects or wealth accumulation – the Caribbean was left in an awful state. The colonizers were primarily concerned with extracting wealth. They showed little or no concern for the welfare and well-being of the population. At independence our people were mostly illiterate, unemployed and in poor health.

Thomas traced the efforts at development and unity by analysing the emergence of CARIFTA, CARICOM and the attempts at the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME); looked at the ways the emergence of the World Trade Organization (WTO) destroyed Caribbean agriculture, particularly bananas, and the role played by the Clinton administration in the USA during the 1990s, and the multinational corporations Dole and Chiquita.

Thomas did not give Caribbean leaders a clean slate or a free ride. He told the audience much more progress could have been made towards regional unity and development, had it not been for the ego, insularity and myopia of all of the regional leaders. He likened them to feudal lords who did not want to sacrifice ownership of their estate for the betterment of the region. ‘United we stand, divide we fall’, he declared.

Looking at the regional landscape as it stood today, Thomas lamented the disunity and noted that much of what we see is stoked and sponsored from abroad – attempts to set one country against another and to break the unity of CARICOM.

He claimed that after 300 years of enslavement, 100 years of colonial rule and 6 decades of independence, the region continues to struggle with underdevelopment, massive debt, high unemployment, drugs and gun violence.

Thomas told listeners that unless there is a complete realignment of the international economic, financial and trading architecture our region will remain underdeveloped and dependent.

Pointing to the way forward, Thomas said the Americans dominate now and the Chinese are emerging. He invoked the wise words of Fidel Castro: ‘The world belongs to those who struggle for it.’

Asked to address the role of the struggle for reparatory justice in the developmental efforts of the region, Thomas reminded the audience that the struggle for reparations is essentially a struggle for power. He noted that the struggle for reparations in the Caribbean has a long history.

As early as 1934, Sir Arthur Lewis, the Caribbean’s first Nobel Prize winner remarked that: “The issue of compensations for slavery has not been adequately addressed.”

Eric Williams in Capitalism and Slavery established the contributions of Caribbean slavery to the development of Britain and America. Nationalist, left radicals and Rastafarians spoke of Repatriation and Reparations for decades.

However, issue remained on the fringes of public discourse until July 2013 when CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in Trinidad resolved to join the fight for reparations. The battle for reparations became mainstream. The issue was further ignited during the democratic presidential debate in America when several contenders supported the issue of reparations for Africans.

More next week on “Who will Own the Caribbean Future”.

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

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].

5 replies on “Who will own our Caribbean future?”

  1. WOW!………from 3 million to 30k ppl. ……….I bet my last dollar the usual suspects on this forum would deny and wont want to hear this ……in fact they would chastise Jomo or even burn him to a stake for highlighting this dark history …………but yet we must never forget the so called Jewish holocaust .

  2. Obviously Jomo has his own version(s) of history. He once wrote that the ancient Egyptians were black, (not Arabic) and that they, of course, ruled Egypt and built the pyramids. In many places in the Ukraine they say the Ukrainians built the pyramids. Now in Poland and much of the West they say Russia did not play a big part in World War 2, or liberating thier country from the Nazis. Hatred of Thomas Jefferson and most of the founding fathers is also being promoted throughout the USA. Can you imagine that if Abraham Lincoln were alive today he would be considered an extreme racist?…far more than Thomas Jefferson?
    I suppose all of this means that people today are giving themselves the liberty of rewriting history, omit and create facts, as they want it. This is bound to cause more and more strife in the future. History has already been described as “lies agreed upon”, but what does this mean? Jomo tells his own version based on his perspective how he has been moulded into his set of beliefs. Even though I have a BA degree (honors) in History, I would caution everyone not to believe fully in anything biased individuals, nor the “establishment” tells you. Those that were there when the events unfolded may not even know the truth, how are we to believe someone that was not there, has a strong bias or was not even born yet?

  3. All of you readers are invited to watch Candice Owens talk at the 2020 CPAC conference:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8Nudmm7ha4

    I am very sorry but this video will disturb many of you, especially Jomo Thomas.

    Candice Owens has been making BIG WAVES in the USA by promoting truth, opportunity and equality no matter what your skin color is. This does not sit right with many people like Jomo that believe people of color should stay dependent and get a free handout based on the past instead of getting equality and opportunity in the present.

  4. When asking such a pertinent question as this one “Who will own our Caribbean future?” we need to distinguish between smaller Caribbean Island states such as SVG and the Continental states like Guyana, together with the even larger Island states like Trinidad and Jamaica. With an Oil boom in the making, Guyana is set to become one of the richest country in the world per capita. But who will indeed own its wealth?

    In distinguishing between these various differing Caribbean entities, a question such as this one, “Who will own our Caribbean future does not appear very difficult to answer at all, judging from past experience in our region.

    If we were to take Plato’s allegory of the Cave and contrast it with Vincentians in particular, we soon get a kind of insight into “Who will own our Caribbean future.”

    Plato’s allegory; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_cave

    Such a reality thus fills one with much foreboding and great fear for the future. Sad as the case may be, that nevertheless is the perceived reality. Dread! This very sad perceived reality, is one of continued exploitation by the few, because of the terrible ignorance by the many.

    An English poet once tells the story of a lone soldier sitting on his mounted steed, in pitch darkness at the graveside of a fellow soldier. There he sat shouting repeatedly in the darkness the words, “I came”, “I came”, “I came.” After some time, tugging at the reins of his steed, he turned and galloped off into that great darkness.

    So too, gazing into the dark Vincentian Caribbean future, I shout into its darkness; I came, I came, I came! Make whatever you will of it.

  5. Writing here about European colonialism above, this following statement by JOMO’s is just the type of narrative that is peddled by him and his kind like Ralph Gonsalves, while pushing their outdated and failed socialist agenda. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJSRTeDoF2A

    “In modern times, it is used to destroy the good name and efforts Fidel and the Cuba Revolution, Manley and his democratic socialist experiment in Jamaica, Maurice Bishop and the Grenadian Revolution and more recently Presidents Chavez and Maduro and Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela”.

    The truth is, an analysis of the policies of Fidel Castro, Norman Manley, Maurice Bishop Hugo Chavez and now of Maduro shows us that these deluded individuals were all inspired by Karl Marx and the failed Soviets. A rejection of them by us, has nothing to do with how we view European Colonialism.

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/venezuela-protest-opposition-clashes-police-200311083942117.html

    All would agree, that European Colonialism and slavery did not work to most Caribbean people of African descent advantage, but come now, who indeed was the Norman Manley and Fidel Castro if not of European descent.

    And Hugo Chavez and Maduro likewise. Be they of Spanish, Portuguese or English colonial descent, one could hardly say that they were or had suffered, be discriminated against and deprived because they were descended from African slaves. There surely is a profound difference here for goodness sake.

    This muddled narrative of JOMO and his kind, like that of Ralph Gonsalves, seeks to deceive the naïve. Eric Williams in “Capitalism and Slavery” sure tells us about the nature of the trade in humans, goods and colonialism, but Frantz Fanon in “Black Skin White Mask” explains how we as Vincentians now ends up where we are today, and who indeed will own our Caribbean future and why that will be so unless we get a grip and change the narrative.

    Frantz Fanon “Black Skin White Mask”
    https://monoskop.org/images/a/a5/Fanon_Frantz_Black_Skin_White_Masks_1986.pdf

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