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There has been much media “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42) over the past two weeks in response to what has been called the “hypocrisy,” “foolishness,” and “desecration” of the swearing in our new Governor General on August 1, Emancipation Day.
The weeping and gnashing, on the editorial pages of the country’s three newspapers on Friday, August 9, has been championed by three leading public intellectuals — Renwick Rose, Adrian Fraser, and Jomo Thomas.
According to Dr. Fraser, “How can we as we celebrate the 181st year of emancipation and in a year when we are going to be commemorating the 40th anniversary of the recovery of our independence be sending such mixed signals!” in conflating the two events.
Apart from the fact that the only “recovery” of independence all but our indigenous people could experience lies in far off lands in Africa and elsewhere, it was the British government that passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, granted us independence in 1989, and approved a new Governor General on August 1, 2019. These look very much like clear and consistent signals.
The second savant, community activist Renwick Rose, argues that, “Emancipation Day is symbolic in the struggles of our people for freedom,” a position even more strongly expressed by Speaker of the House of Assembly Jomo Thomas who claims that, “Such an act [installing a new Governor General on Independence Day] is an affront to our ancestors who fought and won their freedom almost two centuries ago.”
Both men ignore that the struggle to abolish slavery occurred mainly in Great Britain where is was led by righteous white people since the 17th century such that by 1824 there were more than 200 branches of the Anti-Slavery Society in Britain.
What both men also forget is that, unlike many other slave-based Caribbean colonies like Haiti, Jamaica, and Guyana, there were no organized slave uprisings or other “struggles for freedom” in SVG save for a handful of runaway slaves joining forces with the Black Caribs and the French during the Second Carib War (1795-97) eager to return SVG to its former French colonists and slave masters.
Still, this does not mean that our slave ancestors did not use many ingenious techniques to resist the brutalities of their servitude but they did not employ lethal force Haitian-style to win their freedom as Jomo Thomas would have us believe.
As for eminent historian Dr. Adrian Fraser, it is beyond belief that he would deny that Elizabeth II is the legal and political Queen of SVG: “The Commonwealth, made up of former colonies of Britain, came into being in 1949 when a decision was made to maintain ties of friendship and cooperation and to acknowledge the British Monarch as Head of State, Not as Queen of State! So, what is this nonsense about a Queen of SVG? … [W]e spend time on sheer foolishness, defending the indefensible!”
This assertion is indefensibly false. Under the formula of the 1949 London Declaration creating the Commonwealth of Nations, Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of the Commonwealth, a designation that is by law part of Elizabeth’s royal titles in each of the “Commonwealth realms,” namely the 16 members of that union that recognise the Queen as their monarch, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and nine Caribbean countries, one of which is SVG.
Yes, Dr. Fraser, we do indeed have a Queen of SVG and her official title is “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.” Though a “constitutional monarch” with no de facto powers, this same Queen is the legal owner of all the lands in SVG – “private” and Crown lands alike – as she is the sole owner of lands on behalf of the citizenry in her other realms around the world, a verifiable assertion I’m sure Dr. Fraser would dispute as well.