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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves speaking of the launch of his party's governance, politics institute in Kingstown on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves speaking of the launch of his party’s governance, politics institute in Kingstown on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023.
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The ruling Unity Labour Party has launched its Institute of Governance and Politics of Latin America and the Caribbean, which party leader, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says will focus on “education, research, publication and advocacy”.

Gonsalves said the institute, which is located at his party’s headquarters, in Kingstown, will focus on “matters touching and concerning governance, politics and the political economy of our Caribbean and Latin American civilisations, and their historic and contemporary manifestations, inclusive of their dialectical interconnections between and within both our hemispheric civilization and others globally”.

He said the institute will be managed by a 16-member board of directors of which he is chair.

The executive director is Augustine Ferdinand, 29, a graduate of the University of the West Indies and a ULP activist whose work includes hosting the pro-ULP “Shake Up” weekday show on WE FM and the ULP’s Star Radio.

Ferdinand is also the secretary to the board, Gonsalves said. 

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He said education, fundamentally, has four functions, the first of which is “to train critical minds to receive and to transmit universal culture, including science and technology.

“But in our context with a Caribbean and Vincentian particularity, first is to train critical minds to receive and transmit universal culture including science and technology with a Caribbean and Vincentian particularity,” Gonsalves said.

“And you know the difference between somebody who has a trained mind and somebody who has an untrained mind and you know to the value of a trained mind.”

The prime minister said the second function of education is to equip individuals with the requisite skills for the production apparatuses, nationally, regionally and globally.

“… because we have to train regional and global citizens in addition for the country,” Gonsalves said.

He said that in the Vincentian context, the third function of education is “to inculcate uplifting tried and tested values of our Caribbean civilisation and its magnificent Vincentian component”.

The prime minister said this means in addition to “matters of governance and politics and the political economy”, the institute has to address “things about our values and our culture, the writers of our creative imagination; the poets, out entertainers, our artistic persons, visual artists, those who play music, those who sing, those who dance, those who play the drums”.

He said the fourth function of education is “an ancient one… to have a healthy mind in a healthy body.

“Those are what they’re about and this institute will seek to buttress what the education revolution is doing. But in the particular dimension which I have outlined as to the focal areas, which we will concentrate on.”

The emphases of the institute’s work will be “on our Caribbean, especially St. Vincent and Grenadines, but it is essential that its endeavours extend to Latin America and beyond, inclusive of the regional and hemisphere institutions to which our country belongs,” Gonsalves said. 

“The institute has been established to fill the requirement, indeed, the growing need, for the engendering of the sufficiency of truthful information, aid knowledge, help with the development of a full understanding and the application of wisdom of all matters touching and concerning the practice, that is the theory and practice of government, politics and the political economy of our country, our region, the hemisphere and the world.”

He said that Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Keisal Peters, who spoke before him, made the point that there is an abundance of information at one’s fingertips, while Minister of Urban Planning, Senator Benarva Browne “made the accurate observation, if you listen to her carefully, that there’s an information desert — ‘Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink’  — because individuals are unable, with the abundance of information, sufficiently to distinguish what is truthful and what is false.

“In fact, the mindbenders, whether it’s SCL or Cambridge Analytica or the offshoots of Cambridge Analytica, which have advised Donald Trump and the New Democratic Party in St. Vincent and Grenadines they come from the same stable,” Gonsalves said.

“Well, we have to have truthful information and that information has to be interrogated, that information, as both of these young ladies said, has to be contextualised. You have to understand the genesis of that information, the history of that information, how you locate it comparatively. And having turned it inside out, you then decide the truth or falsity of that information.”

The prime minister said that after this is done, “you arrive at the position of knowledge”, adding that this is not the end process, however.

“Having gotten to knowledge, that is to say, interrogating the information, making all the links within the context and historically and comparatively, you have to generate from that knowledge, certain general hypotheses which you may shape into theories upon further inquiry, so that you can establish a number of postulates to help to guide whether your daily life or in fact, policies and programmes.

“And having done that and have an understanding, you still haven’t arrived yet at making the choices. You then have to have wisdom. This is why I dealt with information, knowledge, understanding and wisdom.”

The prime minister said the institute will be assessing information knowledge and understanding and engendering wisdom.

“Now if we succeed in part in these matters, we’ll make a great contribution generally, to public education and certainly those in the party and including the leadership of the party,” Gonsalves said.

He said there was “far too much misinformation, falsehoods disinformation, vile propaganda, ignorance, which are paraded daily by backward political forces which undermine our people’s interests and contaminate the body politic and society. You know it and I know it.”

The prime minister said the institute is “part of the creative resistance to the propagators of falsehood, misinformation and disinformation”.

He said the institute is intended to be “as part of the corrective to these dark and ominous political forces of backwardness and reaction, and delusion and to be a beacon which shines light to unearth information and aid knowledge, understanding and wisdom. It will lift the progressive consciousness of our people.”

In its programmatic work, the Institute will utilise every media, “including face-to-face engagements, traditional and modern communications conduits,” Gonsalves said, adding that it intends to make a difference for the better for the country, region, hemisphere and humanity.

The board of directors will determine how we proceed with matters concerning certification for programmes.

He said that while the institute is an arm of the ULP, most of its activities will embrace populations outside the confines of the party.

“It is undoubtedly an inclusive entity, as you can see with the persons who are present here for the launch of this important institution,” he said, adding that the director will sketch the subject areas of the institute’s work. 

The programmes are likely to include “the philosophy policies, programmes and structure of the ULP and comparative analysis regarding progressive political parties and movements regionally and globally”.

The institute will also include the subjects of governance, politics and the political economy of SVG, the Caribbean, Latin America and globally; public policies and programs of the ULP government and comparatively; public management and public administration including leadership; regional and hemispheric integration — the OECS, CARICOM, ALBA, CELAC, the Association of Caribbean States, the OAS, and their allied institutions.

Others subject are international politics and the global political economy; comparative politics — Latin America, USA, Canada, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the Arab world, Russia; particularities of SVG and the Caribbean – “our history, our literature, culture, progressive politics”; political philosophy and the study of political economy; the nuts and bolts of political praxis, including political organization and political communication.

The prime minister said the institute will inquire into and address a range of categories including colonialism, slavery and inventorship, imperialism, globalisation, our Caribbean civilisation, climate change, Sustainable Development, race and ethnicity, class struggles, theories and practices of economic development, regionalism, foreign policy, reparation, public finances, selling of passports and citizenship, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, crime and anomic behaviour; the relationship of the state the market and civil society, the role of the church, and religion.

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