Forty-plus years ago, as the debate on Independence intensified, it was clear to this writer that those who had honest doubts seemed determined to pursue relevant information, while those who did not wish to know chose to remain in the dark. Attitudes are still so today whenever we face challenging issues such as human sexuality, reparations, crime and punishment and, yes, religion. We have instead developed the habit of allowing every idiot his fifteen seconds of fame. It is a feature of our comatose mind to allow broken lives and unfortunate faces to pass exposed before us in the media, as a sort of evangelization. Perhaps it serves as street theatre for some; a distraction.
I wonder, how many of those who criticize the year-long marking of Independence-40 have pondered a discussion on reconciliation before the year ends? There are small-minded people who are determined to frustrate the plans of the government at every turn. It does not matter to these natural-born haters how much mistrust and anger they create in minds that hunger for attention and profit. The rest of us need to be immunized against the spread of this virus of hate and anger and jealousy. This spreading of discontent is at the core of what ails the Labour opposition. They have opposed every single capital project proposed by the government then turned around and complained that the government has fallen short in its estimated capital expenditure. And they call that politics!
Should we be surprised that the country suffers whenever such minds hold office? Those that are always complaining have not paused since the last elections to thank God that PM Chastanet is not a vengeful man. Some have still not accepted the results of the election. Neither have they accepted those the electorate has put in charge of the nation’s affairs. This further aggravates feeling of exclusion for those opposition elements that still have issues with the national emblems of Saint Lucia. Perhaps they would like to change the colours of the flag, add a few red stars to the coat of arms or perhaps replace the national bird with the poisonous fer-de-lance!
By the way, these are the same natural-born haters who will not seek appropriate remedy for what ails them, since it would mean exposing their ungodly natures, their lust for dishonest income. It’s on social media that two government ministers have resigned in two years. Wouldn’t it be nice to remind us that after fifteen years in office, with unspeakable scandals still hanging over the island, not a single minister of a Labour government had to resign? Interestingly, these are the same people who gave their leader carte blanche permission to take decisions on behalf of Cabinet. In consequence several questions of financial obligations and investment deals remain unanswered.
On reflection, I understand why some people cannot let go of their pre-Independence gripes. Many were left leaderless after George F. L. Charles was unceremoniously booted out as Labour Party leader. That leadership void was filled by the strident voices of George Odlum and a certain Peter Josie. We came closest to the early militancy and determination of George F. L. Charles, in the eyes of many. In the months leading to Independence, public meetings of the SLP on the steps of the Castries market succeeded beyond my wildest imagination. The crowds were the most massive I had ever seen at a public meeting on the island. Everyone knew who were the main drawing cards, and openly acknowledged the truth.
I had an experience on the Castries market steps during one such public meeting that changed my life forever. I was at full throttle, speaking as if possessed. In the middle of my inspired speech I paused, as they say, to drop a pebble in the pool. As I surveyed the massive crowd it dawned on me that people were listening in uncommon silence. For the first time while delivering a public address, I panicked. The silence was so intense, one could literally hear a pin drop. Somehow I was reminded of the great responsibility God had placed upon my shoulders. It was to speak without fear; to guide with humility; and to enlighten with honesty and love. That became my national duty. To be responsible, first and foremost, to the people of Saint Lucia—not just to the Labour Party or to any other group. That evening I was reborn. I became a new person, a person still growing.
Forty-plus years later, when I hear certain people expressing misgivings about the island’s celebration of Independence, using excessive expenditure as their reason, my mind goes back to that night on the Castries market steps. I often wonder whether the wounds inflicted on the road to independence have helped to create displeasure around February 22 each year. There have been several changes of government over the past forty years. The old guard is gone but old animosities linger. This is therefore a prayer that Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and members of the House and Senate would come together to do what is necessary to restore harmony, amity and concord within the citizenry. In the final analysis, reconciliation will only happen when intelligent people decide to put the country and people first. Let us therefore persevere with faith, and may this dialogue of reconciliation be a mark of our maturity, demonstrating for all to see that we shall not lack for anything afterwards.