Haiti, with a long and admirable tradition in football( and the first Caribbean nation ever to reach a World Cup Finals back in 1974); had never lost at any level to St. Kitts & Nevis. So you know who were the underdogs.

My guess is that there were about 3,000 spectators at the Park. About 25 of them were Haitians who were gathered in the Main Stand, right over the halfway line. The remaining 2,975 were us. So for every Haitian in Warner Park on Monday night, there were 119 of us.

Yet for about the first 72 minutes of play, the 25 Haitians were more involved and made more noise than the 2,975 of us. In fact, except for the game announcer, the Iron Band, and a few individuals in the stand and on the grounds who were trying desperately to psyche us up, we, the local fans, were not involved and made no noise at all. It was like Haiti were at home and St.Kitts & Nevis away.

No involvement, no noise from us, and no active support for our young warriors struggling against an opponent that showed superiority in every technical aspect of the game.

But heart and pride  can make up for technical shortcomings, and our Under 23’s showed that they had plenty heart and pride. Even without our support.

We wanted them, the eleven on the field, plus those on the bench, the coaching staff(and the Football Association), the sponsors, the volunteers, etc. to do their part, but we weren’t prepared to do ours, in our own cause.

It seems that’s how we ‘roll’ in this country: between dead, docile, and missing in action, even when it’s important to us.  We let people walk all over us and we say and do nothing. What shame.

Riding through the storm, defending stoutly,  and lucky with Haiti’s failure to finish them off, our team reached halftime with Haiti ahead by a score of 1:0 only.

When the second half started, although Haiti still had the better of it, they seemed less assertive. They let us into the game, and our team accepted the invitation.

Still, however, the 25 Haitian fans were more involved and were outshouting the 2,975 of us. And this continued until about( by my reckoning) the 72nd minute when we equalized through a Haiti own-goal.

At that point four things happened: the Haiti team were somewhat shaken, their 25  fans became very quiet, our team smelled blood, and the 2,975 of us finally found our voices. We were dead, docile or missing in action during the struggle by our youngsters, and for 80% of the game. Then we woke up when things looked prettier.

And when the winning goal came for us in the 87th minute, we went crazy with joyful noise and celebration.

Congratulations and thanks to our players especially, and to team officials, the Football Association and everybody else who chipped in to make the win possible for us.

But tell me. What is it about us that makes us seem unwilling, or even unable, to commit to, and to stand up and take the lead in, our own causes? Why do we tell people who are willing to fight for us that we’re backing them and wish them well, but we’re afraid  to join them in the struggle? Why don’t we fight for ourselves? Why do thousands of us allow ourselves to be ‘dissed’, dominated and disadvantaged  like that?

I will say this: I pray that the experience at Warner Park on Monday night will make us realize that we need to put aside our fear, back ourselves, stand up for ourselves, not leave the heavy lifting in our own cause to others, and not allow any person or handful of persons to dominate, disrespect and ‘down-press’ us.

Lord knows, we’re putting up with too much crap. Here are some examples:

1.Electricity services  have been a failure for the past seven years, and we have suffered great inconvenience, anxiety, loss and damage . But we do little more than grumble.

2.The Prime Minister seems to be afraid to list his assets for public scrutiny. So he says that Integrity in Public Life legislation( which, along with Law & Order, was his top priority before the 1995 elections) is no longer high on his agenda, and he gets his machinery to frustrate and block an Opposition effort to bring such law to Parliament. And what do we do? Nothing. Dead, docile  or missing in action.

3.He lies, and lies, and lies, and lies again to us, and he presides over a network of unscrupulousness, insider trading and public abuse, and we say:”Boy, one day that gon’ have to stop, because God don’t like ugly”. But we do nothing. Instead, we want God or somebody else to work a miracle for us. Just like in the Park the other night. And if the miracle happens, we will jump on board!

4.He abuses and insults the media, yet so many of them wag their tails before him, afraid to ask the hard second and third questions and to be all over him on the issues. Then they make themselves extensions of CUOPM. It’s easier for them to do less, just like the football fans the other night, and hope for the best.

5. He says that he has incited before, that he can incite again, and he gets a free ride from the media and from the rest of us. But when Washington Archibald says that the people are stressed, suffering and feeling oppressed and that people can take only so much before they act out, Washie is accused of inciting and is made persona non grata on radio stations.

6.In response to the report that he was chased out of Nevis, the Prime Minister  says on radio:

“I had to calm my people down, because people were saying that they were going to retaliate but I said no, nothing of that kind ever happened so there’s no need for anything”.

That is the language of gang leaders and thugs, not leaders of nations. How can he lead the charge against crime and gang violence in the country? Yet he gets a free pass from the media and from us. Nobody wants to be the one to bell the cat.

I wonder who his people wanted to retaliate against, and how. And by his own words, he might have ‘allowed’ them to retaliate if he had in fact been chased out of Nevis. So he has his people  ready to “retaliate”? If so, they should be ready to initiate. So he is a gang leader then.

Imagine Barack Obama or David Cameron or Kamla  Persaud-Bissessar saying something like that!

And what does he think that retaliation would lead to? More subservience and docility  among the people? Maybe.

7.Now look at what he has done with our economy. A $3 billion dollar debt and a debt to GDP ratio of 196%, the second highest in the world. And as we get our backsides trounced by his reckless fiscal and economic leadership, we watch on timidly and impotently, like the crowd at the Park the other night.

8.Meanwhile, the University of The West Indies Department of Management Studies at Cave Hill, Barbados, has released its second quarter CARICOM Consumer Sentiment Report.

In the first quarter Report, St. Kitts & Nevis stood at second worst in CARICOM in the overall Consumer Sentiment Index. This time around we placed dead last.

In Consumer Expectations, we placed 3rd to last in the first quarter report, while in this one we placed dead last.

For Current Economic Conditions we placed dead last in the first quarter and dead last again in the second quarter.

For Current Personal Financial Situation, we placed dead last in the first quarter and dead last again in the second quarter.

For Current Business Conditions we were third to last in the first quarter and dead last in the second quarter.

For Expected Business Conditions we placed third to last in the first quarter and dead last in the second quarter.

And for Government’s Economic Policy Rating, in the first quarter we ranked third to last, with 8% of our people saying that Government was doing a good job and 55.6% saying that Government was doing a poor job. For the second quarter, we fell down to dead last with 3% of our people saying Good Job and 65% saying Poor Job.

We say that quietly to the pollsters, but we do nothing to fix the problem. Just grin, or even grumble, and bear it, as  we did at the Park the other night for 72 minutes.

9.But it gets even worse, you know. We’re hearing of  problems with the Beacon Heights project that’s being funded by Social Security money. That’s our money. It’s alleged that about $77 million has been spent thus far, and the Project is stalling. Yet, the media seems to be dozing off and we’re snoring.

10.Then we have electoral misbehavior and mismanagement right in front of our faces and we continue to do nothing. People who do nothing get hit with everything!

11.Now the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank(ECCB) has taken control of the  Antigua & Barbuda Investment Bank(ABIB) in order to save ABIB from collapse.

One of ABIB’s problems was over-exposure to Government debt. It’s the second Antigua-based bank to be rescued by the ECCB in the past two or three years, and there could soon be a third.

It would be helpful for citizens of the OECS to know how much money the ECCB has put out in these rescue missions thus far, including the CLICO-BAICO situation, and what impact, if any, there has been, or might be, on ECCB itself.

This information would be particularly helpful in view of the comment of our Prime Minister that intention of the ECCB initiative is to protect the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union. What does that mean? Is high exposure to Government debt by indigenous banks a present threat to financial and economic stability in the OECS? If so, which are those banks?

And it leads to more questions. For example, is the ECCB Inspection Department as strong as it can be? Is it time for financial services to be regulated on a broader, full CARICOM basis? Is it time to review Banking Acts so that the exposure limits to individual debtors  are applied to Government as well( Governments are presently exempted from these restrictions), especially given the fact that this arrangement  serves only to prop up incompetent and corrupt regimes, and in the process it exposes entire financial systems , economies and societies to possible destabilization?

Are the ECCU structures based on modern best practices, or are they based on  discarded UK practices which directed significant  private sector assets into Government hands allowing Government to borrow cheaply while possibly restricting investors from getting best possible returns?

Do you see what can happen when an  education system doesn’t pay sufficient attention to personal financial management? The people are kept in the dark. In addition, if there were perhaps more Finance experts and greater scrutiny, BAICO might not have been able to sell their toxic paper in the region, and there would be a risk premium associated with any bank investing in local Government paper when the debt-to-GDP ratio exceeded 60%, which means that banks, and their depositors, would have been better protected.

In this most crucial ‘game’ of finance, fiscal  management and governance, we are not trained, so we don’t even know when it’s game on. And that’s worse than what happened the Park on Monday night! Because while we left the hard work to our team for 80% of the game, in this ‘game’ we aren’t spectators; we’re players. Our survival depends on it!  But we don’t have the knowledge and we don’t seem too keen to learn the ‘game’.

I’m sure you know that mass financial ignorance and political naivete  are the two most effective tools used by  callous, self-serving modern day leaders. That’s why they can arrogantly and callously say, even in the midst of this severe, multifaceted crisis, that ”It’s Working”, and get away with it.

Meanwhile, we get knocked about and emasculated, like the crowd at the Park the other night for 72 minutes, except that in this particular matter, the ‘game’ is far more serious. Deadly serious. And what’s more, it’s now into injury time, and we’re way behind.

What a shame! What a damned shame on us!


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