By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” April 22, 2022)
Tomorrow, Prince Edward, son of the reigning Queen Elizabeth, more appropriately named Mr. Colonialism, pays a one-day visit to Yurumei, the name our ancestors called our homeland but which was stolen and renamed St. Vincent by the colonials.
Edward and his British entourage should not be feted in our land. Paramount Chief Chatoyer turns in his grave, Commander Duvalier cringes, and those ancestors corralled and exiled look on in horror as our neo-colonial leaders lay down the red carpet for the invaders.
Principles and sovereignty are not argued about; they are stoutly defended. In expending scarce and precious resources to welcome Edward and Sophie, our leaders have not gotten the message yet. As Calypsonian Chalkdust said in song, “White people laughing at we.” Therefore, in defence of our people’s honour, all patriots, nationalists, progressives and reparationists must join in protest and demonstrate their disapproval of the royal visit.
To build a praxis necessary to emancipate us from mental slavery and a people-centred consciousness, we must remember not to forget. Jewish leaders teach their history under the broad theme “never forget; never again”. We have not learned anything from our history. The African holocaust was a million times more horrific than that suffered by Jews. The African Holocaust took the lives of countless millions and has gone on for hundreds of years.
How did we get here? Europeans were endeavouring to solve their crushing economic and social problems. Lack of resources and overcrowding made life miserable. They embarked on the colonial project that witnessed the destruction of thriving civilisations in the rest of the world. Europeans’ contact with the rest of the world resulted in conquest, settlement, genocide, colonialism and imperialism. And when the indigenous peoples were either slaughtered or worked to death, Europeans pounced on the African continent, kidnapped an estimated 12 million Africans, began a slave trade, and established a slave system that went on for hundreds of years.
Our ancestors lost their culture, religion, language, and history. After the second Garifuna/Kalinago war, thousands of our ancestors were captured, brutalised, and exiled. The monarch of England presided over the conquest of our country, Yurumei. The colonials organised and benefitted from the royal charter that allowed English slavers to travel to Africa and kidnap our ancestors.
A tribute to our people’s fierce resistance is that our homeland experienced the shortest period of enslavement (1797 to 1838). But after slavery was abolished in 1838, prince Edward’s family continued the colonial criminal enterprise for another 141 years until independence in 1979.
Our people’s experience under the British monarch was brutish and exploitative. They never give up and never give in. By 1863, our people rose up in righteous indignation against the colonial demands. We did so again in 1935 in an uprising that kicked off anti-colonial uprisings across the Caribbean. Our people never stopped fighting to establish their sense of “somebodiness”.
By independence in 1979, like the rest of the Caribbean, our country was and remains a crime scene. The colonial devastation was enormous. The colonial occupation was extractive. The cultivation was solely intended to benefit the English authorities and plantation owners. Our people were mercilessly exploited.
After almost 200 years of occupation, the British built only two secondary schools. A large section of our population was functionally illiterate. The colonial overlords never bothered to construct hospitals or clinics. Life expectancy was very low. People suffered and died from treatable illnesses.
There was no attempt to build up a cadre of trained personnel to deal with the problems of a modern developing society. Poverty was and remains high. Today over 35% of citizens eke out an existence below the poverty line.
SVG was and remains a dismal developmental mess.
For these reasons, Edward and his wife Sophie should be reminded that they have stepped onto a crime scene at every turn. They must be made to confront the reality that their ancestors are architects of this crime resulting in rape, murder, theft, and underdevelopment.
We must not shake hands and smile with criminals. These colonial visitors should be made uncomfortable. They ought not to have been invited here. Since our neo-colonial leaders welcome them, we, the people, must make them feel uninvited. We must, in action, disinvite them with our protest.
We cannot and must not accept their smug expressions of regret for their aggressive conquest, exile, slavery and colonialism. If there is no genuine apology and commitment to repair, we must treat them with scorn and ridicule.
Edward and Sophie come precisely a year after the volcanic eruptions. The British government pledged a paltry sum of 200,000 pounds during those difficult times. The monarchy, which sits on billions, did not give a cent. After some legislators protested, the government increased the stingy offer to a dismally low 800,000 pounds. Ukraine gets billions.
Only the people can save the people. It is well established that power concedes nothing without a demand. Never did and never will. Therefore, it is our responsibility to wrest what is rightfully ours from those who either stole from us or deny us access to what we need to survive, develop and strive. And this is why the struggle for reparations is so vitally important.
We must use the bitter taste of Edward and Sophie’s visit as a catalyst to recommit to struggle to regain our patrimony. The queen must be removed as our head of state. We must discard the alien Privy Council as our highest court and embrace the Caribbean Court of Justice. These small steps will assist in our humanisation as a people and civilisation.
This visit by Edward and Sophie must be the last of its kind to our country. They must shudder at the thought of returning to these shores until they accede to our just demands to pay reparations for their brutal crimes against indigenous and African peoples.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
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