Since recently becoming a fulltime STAR reporter, I have been confronted by several new experiences and opportunities. I have also received the usual warm, welcome remarks and congratulations a young person hears upon being hired on the basis of his or her skills and talents. As have many before me, I’ve been advised to use my talents to contribute to my country, to help improve my society, to do whatever possible to bring about positive change. All of that I endeavour to do – after all, that is what the STAR has always been about: bringing the truth to light. I am writing this piece having taken a trip down memory lane via the newspaper’s archives.
I was unprepared for what I discovered: that in our country there has been little new in at least three decades that might be considered positive. I was stunned by the inconvenient truths that slapped me in the face as I turned the pages of time. Having read several articles, many published before I was born, I found myself wondering about this meaningful contribution that I had set my heart on making. I wandered through issues of the paper from the years 1989 and 1993 and, I should also say, there were some articles that made me smile: Derek Walcott receiving the highest “national honour”, but only after winning the Nobel Prize; Tropical Traveller being welcomed by the Ministry of Tourism, and Piton Beer receiving international recognition soon after being launched.
It was fascinating to see faces that I have known for some time, the only difference being that they featured in the STAR without a single wrinkle and not the smallest sign of worry. There were also the gentlemen with their locks and beards, with not a trace of grey, who directed the country’s affairs. What a thrill to read what they had to say at the launching of hotels I have known my entire life, but not the histories. Before me, too, were the beginnings of the fitness craze. And then there was carnival that could always be counted on to lift the Saint Lucia spirit, regardless of how depressing the times. Beyond those smiles, however, there were murders, rapes and ministers having sordid affairs with girls below the age of consent; protesting banana farmers long neglected; petty politicians proving their pettiness.
As I thumbed through those pages that pre-date my existence, I wondered about the rapes that occur almost weekly and whether it was possible for me, or any ‘Not Asking For It’ campaign, to bring about a change when our justice system is as broken today as it was before I was born, and the police as ineffective. Do I still stand for what I believe in – as Guy Joseph did in parliament on Tuesday – or will the “nays” continue to have it, as they have had dating back to 1989? “There’s nothing new under the sun.” That was the popular reaction of many when first the Ubaldus Raymond scandal broke a few weeks ago. After I’d read an even worse story involving “the father of our nation” and a 15-year-old Castries Comprehensive School student in 1993, I wondered whether the current brouhaha would go further than it already has. There was a point in time when funds earmarked to pay for a new hospital were instead used to give Victoria Hospital a face-lift. When I think about that scenario the St. Jude situation comes to mind. I am also reminded of the adage “the more things change, the more they remain the same”. As for the new hospital . . . The World Health Organization once declared that Saint Lucia had “the highest homicide rate for men”. So far this year there have been fifteen deaths, victims of shootings and knifings.
Thirty years after Rick Wayne and the STAR started “bringing the truth to light” how much has changed? It’s depressing that things have merely grown worse. But then, that might be said of many other countries with far more resources than are at Saint Lucia’s disposal. Nevertheless, many citizens continue to fight in the belief that all things must change – if only after Nature has put in a hand. What has really progressed in our country? Will my contribution even matter? On the eve of yet another Independence celebration I am reminded of something Rick Wayne shared that Derek Walcott had told him: “Until you have achieved what you set out to achieve, you have not done enough!”