In his most recent address to the United Nations General Assembly, Saint Lucia’s prime minister acknowledged almost with his opening words that he sometimes finds it difficult to accept “humanity has progressed over millennia.” He did, however, note that “beyond this chamber lies a beautiful world,” no doubt full of people who struggle to communicate in English, lost people, including illiterate transit drivers pretending to be otherwise.
Dr Anthony also advised the President of the General Assembly that “we still are blessed to be given a world from which we seek life and livelihoods,” just in case anyone believed he had just landed from outer space. Perhaps fearing that the president of the Assembly had been confined within the UN building for too long, Dr Anthony went on to reassure attendees that “our civilization continues to thrive.” However, it would not do so much longer if we failed to “recognize and celebrate our shared humanity.”
As if to reaffirm that he had just returned from a certain congress in South Africa where the Saint Lucian prime minister delivered a keynote address he alone had heard, Dr Anthony insisted we must all live in “a world, as is said in Southern Africa, that is endowed with Ubuntu.”
Now, I do not for a nanosecond imagine Dr Anthony was referring to the ubuntu that I first encountered back in 1983. I had just completed a job in a remote region of Southern Africa, and was gingerly making my way back through the cowpats on a cattle-filled veldt to my parked helicopter, when my host warned me to “be careful not to step in the cow “ubuntu.”
Of course, the computer savvy know Ubuntu is owned by the South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth, who just happens to be the most popular Linux distributor of desktop laptop personal computers. It is also popular on servers for cloud computing. While the operating system itself is entirely free of charge, Ubuntu generates considerable revenue by selling technical support and services related to the system. So perhaps Dr Anthony was making a pitch for the world to go Ubuntu.
But then with so many wars going on around the world, with or without the monitoring of the United Nations, not even Dr Anthony could believe that Ubuntu, the philosophy that can be summed up as “humanity towards others,” is working particularly well. Then again, he could have just been showing off a new word learned while observing the recently held South Africa Congress.
Dr Anthony revealed his ignorance of the workings of the United Nations and the veto system that keeps lesser nations in check while allowing greater nations to haggle and barter over world peace by insisting that all nations “sit here as equals, every one with a voice, every one with a say. Our size, whether defined by geography or by population, or by both, finds no relevance.” Oh, really?
Waxing poetic, Dr Anthony proceeded to lecture the leaders of the world that “the beauty of democracy is that we can embrace a pursuit of happiness, prosperity, and enjoyment of life. Therefore, our philosophies should never destroy this pursuit; they should affirm it”—though “no one expects a naïve world, with utopic leaders.”
Platitudes usually provide safe ground for “utopic” speeches; unfortunately, Dr Anthony cannot resist plonking his foot in the ubuntu even when he, apparently, means well. Despite having acknowledged Taiwan’s right to a separate existence as a sovereign state through his recent confirmation of diplomatic ties, he announced to the world that he really did not mean what he had said. Nothing could be more insulting to our Taiwanese friends and benefactors, who, you must remember, were expelled from the United Nations despite the fact that they were founding members of that body, when that Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon, for his own political reasons, allowed Mainland China to usurp the Republic of China’s rightful place.
This is what Dr. Anthony said: “The Government of Saint Lucia is well aware of the determination of the Chinese people to unify their country, signalled to the world with the taking by China of its rightful place in this august body of the United Nations.”
A short history lesson might be useful at this point: On February 27, 1972, the United States and China issued a joint communiqué at the culmination of Nixon and Kissinger’s historic week long visit to the People’s Republic. In a not-so-thinly-veiled reference to the Soviet Union, the communiqué declared that neither nation “should seek hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region and each is opposed to efforts by any other country or group of countries to establish such hegemony.”
Taiwan remained a stumbling block throughout the negotiations. The U.S. sought improved relations with Beijing, but it still officially recognized Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government on Taiwan, which is exactly Saint Lucia’s situation today, except that President Ma is now in power.
The U.S. had been inching toward a “two Chinas” policy for years. Only four months earlier, when the United Nations voted on whether to admit the People’s Republic of China, the U.S. reversed its 20-year opposition to seating the PRC, but opposed any effort to expel Taiwan. Ultimately, the U.S. lost the fight for dual representation. The PRC gained admission to the UN; Taiwan was ousted. The U.S. was left to juggle relations with two countries that both saw themselves as the sole legitimate government of all of China.
China viewed its dealings with Taiwan as a strictly internal issue, to be handled as it saw fit; the Americans insisted that the Chinese resolve the Taiwan question without the use of force. The U.S., in deft phrasing, acknowledged that “all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China,” but neatly avoided the question of who should govern this “one China.”
Whatever the matter, Dr Anthony assured the world that “Saint Lucia welcomes the emerging dialogue and cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China on Taiwan” without mentioning how much money our Minister for Foreign Affairs and his delegation had managed to scrape from the Mainland Chinese on their recent fence-mending, “mea culpa mission” to ask forgiveness for continuing our relationship with Taiwan. I mean, are we supposed to believe they went all the way to China and got nothing? Not even a little red envelope? No personal gifts? No donation to dee partee? What a waste of a trip!
Quite rightly, but in stark contrast to the rosy, chummy picture of the United Nations he had just painted, Dr Anthony referred to “one of the injustices that is a relic of an era of fear and dispute long gone” and went on to say “it is time to end the embargo placed against the Republic of Cuba by the United States.”
Strangely however, he said this without a blush or a sigh in the direction of Taiwan, the victim of the injustices of his Beijing buddies. Except for China’s opposition to Taiwan, “blockades and embargoes are,” in Dr Anthony’s mind, “anachronistic and outmoded and cannot be tolerated or justified.”
As far as the global economy is concerned, Dr Anthony knows “that many of the decisions that affect our world and my country are still made solely and unilaterally in the capitals of others and that 80 percent of the world’s trade and economic activity is held in 20 countries. I can assure you Saint Lucia and all of the Caribbean Basin are beyond the limits of this geopolitical circle.”
At last, a touch of reality! A semblance of humility, a realization that St Lucia has, “with little or no resources, diplomatic or otherwise,” no viable economy. We need help. Small islands cannot stand alone, but “if there is a willingness to support their growth and development, then small islands can be successful stories.” To add weight to his point Dr Anthony pointed out that “our 15-member Caribbean Community has a combined population of 17 million and an economy of about 89 billion US dollars. The US territory of Puerto Rico, itself part of the greater Caribbean, has a GDP of about 100 billion dollars.”
Dr Anthony quite rightly made the point that many small states are deceptively classed as “middle income” on the mere basis of per capita. A country the size of Saint Lucia should not be subjected to such a measuring tool for determining whether a state can stand on its own. This conviction is in stark contrast to Dr Anthony’s previous party political, opposition-at-all-costs approach to the national disasters that plagued the Stephenson King years. He even quoted Hurricane Tomas as a reason for leniency.
“Saint Lucia experienced one hurricane in 2010 that caused damage totaling nearly 30% of our GDP. One Category 2 hurricane, in one year. Our island and small states like ours are then forced to become even more indebted as we have to borrow to replace infrastructure such as arterial roads and bridges, without which our country’s economy would face further contraction.”
Gone and forgotten is the world leadership role previously so bombastically espoused. Instead, Dr Anthony paints a realistic, if pitiable, picture of island life. “We are further impacted by unilateral domestic measures implemented in major developed states that place no sensitivity to matters such as our dependence on tourism, making our destinations less desirable.” The world market place is becoming ever more aggressive, as indicated by “the emergence of countries of Asia, Africa and the Far East as competitors in global economic competition”—a competition that the Caribbean, by implication, cannot match.
Dr Anthony finally seemed to recognize how pitifully small and insignificant our problems are when ranged alongside world turmoil. “In the cacophony of regional conflicts that inevitably draw the attention and involvement of the major powers, the problems of survival of small countries in the environment of larger states, has become more and more intractable.”
If help from the big nations of the outside world is not forthcoming, Dr Anthony will turn to Africa for salvation. “We in Saint Lucia look forward to an enhanced cooperation with the countries of a continent from which a large proportion of our population finds its ancestry.” Does Dr Anthony really and truly believe that the bankrupt, corrupt countries of Africa have the will or the capacity to assist the Caribbean?
Uncharacteristically realistic, Dr Anthony painted a sad picture of a future that can only be brightened by help from abroad. Not a word was said about what Saint Lucians must do to pull themselves out of the morass they find themselves in.
Dr Anthony ended his speech on the usual mendicant note: “As is now well known, the traditional economic relations, under the auspices of the Commonwealth system, and then the African, Pacific and Caribbean institutional relationships in the context of our trade with Europe, are diminishing. We look forward to new avenues of relationships, a task in which the United Nations can be of great assistance.” Meanwhile Saint Lucians desperately hold their breath!