The goal of colonialism was for the colonial power and the colonial power’s private interests to reap economic rewards through exploitation of the natural and human resources of African and native people.
Out of that came a social, economic and political structure intended to keep the descendants of Africa from ever reaching their full economic potential and that structure persisted up to the time the colonial power deemed that the relationship with the colonies was no longer economically viable.
When colonial powers allowed independence they had not established any leadership model except one of exploitation that is manifested in only a chosen few benefitting from the economic prosperity.
One of the troubling signs that we see in Caribbean nations is leadership that too often appears no different in its social, economic and political outlook than the old colonialists. We know them as neo-colonists.
Take today’s St. Kitts and Nevis for example; can anybody say that the people are better off now than they were five years ago or ten years ago? The minority regime that is now illegitimately running this country is no better, in many ways, than the colonial regime that oppressed our people for four hundred years.
And that is a shame because the new oppressors, the neo-colonialists, look just like us. And that is why it is very important for our people to know their history so that they can identify, in their best interest, who the oppressor truly is.
If our leadership really understood their role in a post-colonial society it would: a) figure out how to maximize our natural and human resources but this time around make sure that the people benefit. It would not sell our diplomatic passports for millions of dollars to questionable individuals and undermine our national brand and our long-term income earning potential; b) have an all out campaign to bring prosperity to this country by putting our people first; c) work with international organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF so that we are partners with them and not slaves to a particular economic doctrine; d) encourage and promote significant and meaningful discussion about the wealth that left the country under the old colonialists and how we can stop the bleeding in the 21st century and beyond.
If we are to empower our people to overcome the psychological effects of slavery and colonialism we must get clarity with regard to the wealth and prosperity that evaded us under the old colonialists and the wealth and prosperity that continues to evade the vast majority of the people under the neo-colonial system.
There is an old saying, “if you don’t remember the mistakes of the past, you are likely to repeat them”. I believe that the reason why the neo-colonialists persist with a selfish, self-serving agenda is because they have forgotten their history and their ancestors, many of whom paid the ultimate price so that others would prosper.
Last week Tuesday, the 28th January, the Rastafari Nyabinghi Theocracy Order celebrated the 79th anniversary of the (1935) Buckley’s uprising. And for those of us who need a bit of history about that tumultuous period, we have to be reminded that it came out of an oppressed people’s desire for a new social, economic and political order that benefitted them after long years of struggle, suffering and hardship under colonial rule.
Our people bled and died during the Buckley’s uprising and out of that bold movement for CHANGE came people empowerment through land ownership; trade unionism; workers representation and fundamental rights to fair pay and proper working conditions; adult suffrage and the right of the people to vote for a government of their choice under an established democratic principal of majority rule.
Just resolution of those issues and the willingness of the people to demand respect for the rule of law and for human rights, gave birth to the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party. Today, some eighty-two years after it was formed, we see a morphing of that Party into the Douglas Party and the advancement of a neo-colonial doctrine. But even worse, we are seeing a dangerous trend towards the reversal of those fundamental rights that were hard-won by our ancestors and the ushering in of a rule-of-one-man dictatorship that ignores the rule of law and threatens economic security and social stability.
We see a rule-of-one-man dictatorship that violates our Constitution and democratic traditions and conventions at every turn. We see a rule-of-one-man dictatorship that has the National Assembly without a Deputy Speaker for some four years, in contravention of our Constitution Section 32(3) which states: “When the National Assembly first meets after any general election and before it proceeds to the despatch of any other business except the election of the Speaker the Assembly shall elect a member of the Assembly who is not a member of the Cabinet or a Parliamentary Secretary to be Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, and if the office of Deputy Speaker falls vacant at any time before the next dissolution of Parliament, the Assembly shall, as soon as convenient, elect another such member to that office.
We see a rule-of-one-man dictatorship that has a substantial majority of our people suffering from the effects of a runaway national debt, run up by a reckless leader interested only in staying in power, for reasons known only to him. A leader totally oblivious of the financial hardship families endure as a result of a 17% VAT; an 85% increase in electricity cost; a national high double-digit rate of unemployment; a near 25% youth joblessness; the loss of our sugar lands to foreigners; and the loss of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in dubious projects such as LaVallee and Beacon Heights.
And whilst our people suffer under an IMF structural adjustment programme dubbed “homegrown”, the rule-of-one-man dictatorship generates some $1.8 billion from the sale of passports and has it deposited in a private “slush” fund called the SIDF, in violation of our Constitution Section 69 which states: “All revenue or other moneys raised or received by the Government (not being revenues or other moneys that are payable, by or under any law, into some other fund of the Government established for a specific purpose) shall be paid into and form a Consolidated Fund.”
We see a rule-of-one-man dictatorship that has two budgets passed in the National Assembly without the support of the majority of the people’s elected representatives and one budget being introduced some one hundred days after the commencement of the financial year in violation of our Constitution Section 71(1) which states: “The Minister for the time being responsible for finance shall cause to be prepared and laid before the National Assembly before, or not later than sixty days after, the commencement of each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Government for that financial year.”
We see a rule-of-one-man dictatorship that has made St. Kitts and Nevis the poster child for dysfunctional democracy by having a motion of no confidence sitting deliberately in abeyance for almost fourteen months, a record for global democracies, denying the people of this country their right to vote for a government of their choice and an opportunity to depart from a neo-colonial path and instead embark upon a road of togetherness, rebuilding, recovery and prosperity.
If we the people of St. Kitts and Nevis are to be empowered to overcome the psychological effects of slavery and colonialism, we have to do a few things, inter alia: 1) we must know and understand our history; 2) we must identify the oppressor(s) whether old colonial or neo-colonial; 3) we must not be bogged down by our colonial past but use it instead to inform policy initiatives and a governing philosophy that brings sustained prosperity to the people of this country; 4) we must tell our children and grandchildren the story, ensure they have a first-rate education and empower them psychologically and otherwise with the fortitude to be whatever they want to be…to aspire…to dream BIG dreams; and 5) we must say never again will we live under any oppressive system designed to benefit a chosen few, whilst the vast majority of our people become mired in perpetual poverty and pain.