As we celebrate our 39th Anniversary of Independent nationhood we should not allow our colonial past to define our future, this according to government Senator and Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Carlos James.
The Senator made this point on Saturday while addressing Vincentian and Caribbean nationals at an Independence gala in Winnipeg, Canada organised by the SVG Association of Winnipeg.
Senator James, the keynote speaker at the event, told the gathering that in just 39 short years post independence our country has seen significant advancements for ordinary Vincentians.
Reflecting on our past experience James noted that our people are the product of three centuries of slavery followed by indentureship.
“Our people have endured the most gruesome crimes against humanity through slavery and native genocide. Our indigenous people were hunted and killed in cold bold. Those who survived were exiled off the coast of Honduras while our African forefathers were savagely enslaved and their blood, sweat and energy used to enrich Britain,” Senator James said.
James acknowledged that at the end of slavery British slave owners were heavily compensated by the United Kingdom government to the tune of over 4 billion Eastern Caribbean Dollars (in today’s value) while slaves were never compensated following the abolition of slavery. This, according to James, is why our call for reparatory justice remains relevant.
According to the government Senator, despite these atrocities the region is now engaged in the important exercise of shaping a modern sustainable and resilient society.
“We have emerged to create a Caribbean civilisation fashioned from the fabric of our cultural distinctiveness as a people through the collective exercise of intellect and imagination. Similarly, in post-colonial St. Vincent and the Grenadines we celebrate our quality education system and its accompanying revolution, land reform and ownership for the descendants of the enslaved, our functioning system of governance and the independence of the judiciary,” James noted.
Senator James further emphasised that 39 years post independence we have significantly enhanced our system of self-governance, reduced indigence and continue to provide opportunities for wealth creation for our citizenry.
“Despite our limitations, we are now a thriving developing State and a commercial hub in the centre of the Caribbean archipelago…. Equally, there is room at the table for our diaspora community to play an active role in shaping our future development,” James said.
According to James, notwithstanding these significant advancements, there are persons who misinterpret the concept of our post colonial economy.
“There are those who tend to cast a scornful eye on the very region that has given us so many opportunities. They often miss the mark by comparing our region’s development, or under-development in some respects, to the advancements seen in first world countries that have not gone through the struggles of our Caribbean people,” he cautioned.
The Senator noted that while we have endured much as a people we must now prepare our country and region to be more resilient and competitive.
“Our country, in particular, is not blessed with natural minerals, but we are profoundly blessed with our greatest asset, the resilience of our people. We exist due to the mercies of almighty God and the resilience and triumph of our peoples. We therefore cannot allow our past to define our future development as a region,” James said.