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41 years of independence

Perhaps this independence has a tinge of uniqueness since this may be the closest an election has been to independence in recent memory (9 days). The two things are so intimately connected that it demands a ponder. Part of the philosophy and reality of independence is self-governance and part of the phenomenon of self-governance is choosing who will govern. Systems vary but the principle remains, independent nations decide who governs – even when the citizens seem less aware that it is THEIR choice.

The matter of governance is complex and choosing who will govern is equally complex. While the candidates thrive on making us think the choice is simple and obvious, a scrupulous analysis of this phenomenon will always reveal otherwise. Some may contend, reasonably so, that there is a place for loyalty referring to those who will vote as they have always voted and as their family would vote. Others may contend that the primary principle informing our choice should be leadership related issues such as integrity, charisma, influence, vision, character along with other virtues. Still others will argue that it is about values and what we value. Yet, no group of politicians ever seem to score an A in all the things people value and all their most important values. This is where it gets more complex. While one set of persons may give values A-D priority another may give values C-E priority. Whichever combination of values you use, you can often come up with a different option. Whatever the choices we make along with the motives behind those choices are all part of what independence means for a nation and has implications for our custodianship of this considered noble virtue of self-governance. We do believe that prayer, seeking God’s wisdom and making your decisions with the counsel of Paul in mind will augur well for our choosing and our democracy. Paul writes “do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit” but be deliberately invested in the wellbeing of the other – advocating for love, selflessness, humility, servanthood and submission to God as important part of our sowing if we are to anticipate a bountiful and ‘exalted’ harvest (Philippians 2.1-11).

Choosing and evaluating governments therefore is fundamental to our independence but, the act of choosing (what some call democracy) like independence itself is really a tool towards taking us as a nation to where we wish to go. And where do we want to go and how do we hope to get there? To what extent these are questions we have seriously reflected on? Different people seem to have different ideas and visions for our country. For some “all we want is a country where we have money in our hand”. For others “what we want is a developed country” (whatever that development means). Still others use language such as progress, advanced and liberality. While some think of what they want for our country comparatively. They want us to be like America or Canada or some other ‘developed’ country. Admittedly the comparative approach sometimes come with a strong sense of self-deprecation (caution!!). These may be issues we have to collectively explore (more deliberately so) long before elections come around yet they are now urgent as we consider who should be given the mandate to lead us.  

Many of us have heard it said, if you don’t know where you are going you can end up anywhere, and if you don’t know how to get there, anything and anyone can take you anywhere. Do we want an SVG where family is foundational? Do we want an SVG grounded in its Christian values? Or, some alternative values? Invariably there will always be a set of values that inform who we are and not all will subscribe to those sets of values. It also seems that those values will often be a reflection of the collective ethos of the people or the political and economic power and influence of a few – which will and ought it to be for us. Or, do we just want a country that mirrors others with no real sense of our legitimate place in God’s world? What does it mean for US here in SVG(not even for our neighbour, Barbados or large influences like USA, England, Canada – for US)  that “the Peoples of the [state] of Saint Vincent, who are known as Vincentians have affirmed that the Nation is founded on the belief in the supremacy of God”?

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How does this also inform our approach to the electoral process. The language of free and fair seem to be universal values espoused. Yet what determines the boundaries of fairness or free? Is it also somewhat paradoxical that many of the very citizens who call for free and fair are often the very ones seeking to compromise the rules, push the boundaries of respect, use tools such as dishonesty and manipulation? Is an election free and fair if winning comes with the compromise of good godly values? Is election truly free and fair if deceit, propaganda, deliberate misuse of facts, bribery, manipulation and creative intimidation are tools used to win? Is the goal just getting into or maintaining power at any cost because of the “good” intended once in office? If the means is corrupted doesn’t it corrupt the end as well? If our campaigning and efforts to win and election lack noble values or such values are corrupted by ignoble methodologies and therefore fail to provide us with or focus on (cliché) ‘issues’, visions and values on which to make our decisions do we not contaminate the very soul of our nation and leave a poisoned legacy for the generations to follow.  Free and Fair cannot simply be convenient rhetoric employed based on presumed and anticipated benefit or only when we win.

This year we have seen how the pandemic of Covid-19 seemed to create an environment that insisted on only ‘one’ approach to managing the spread of the virus. Borders closed, corporations and collaborations strained as priority is given to ‘our’ people’s safety. Covid has certainly provoked serious questions about independence, self-governance and related sovereignty matters. These have become even more sensitive issues for small island states in a world with increased focus on multilateralism and intensified experience of globalisation. Multilateralism while espousing values like unity and corporation, is it a tool that can be used oppressively to suffocate individuality and indigeneity, valuing the individual only as part of and not in and of itself. Do we believe that this ST VINCENT and the GRENADINES, our little corner in this massive cosmos, can contribute uniquely and meaningfully to the world? Do we give ourselves the permission, as an independent state, to explore and discover pathways that may be at variance with others?

As we celebrate our independence and go to the poles to choose a government several relevant and vexatious issues surface. Our hope is that these issues will not be tools for cheap political leverage but will be part of a conversation on who WE want to be as SVG or even more fundamentally – who does GOD want us to be, who did God create us to be? We cannot forget that it was also the issue of self-governance, particularly the misplaced desire for it, that was the birth of sin and the attendant destruction that our humanity experienced. If we do not manage this phenomenon of independence/ self-governance well, we will destroy our nation and corrupt our destiny.

Let us also take a moment to pray for all those invested in preserving the values of the electoral process some who go with little sleep to do their best to eliminate ALL human errors. Let’s pray for wisdom and courage and the grace needed to preserve this vital instrument of our independence.

Whatever the future brings OUR FAITH must see us through.

Blessed 41st Anniversary of independence SVG

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].

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