The process, over the last 29 years, has had perhaps more than its fair share of politics, and this has served to further deepen the divisiveness in our country.
Interestingly, former Minnesota Governor, Jesse Ventura, in painting a picture of the divisiveness in American politics, has described the Democrats as „the DemoCrips‟ and the Republicans as „the ReBloodlicans‟. If divisiveness is hurting a giant nation like the USA, it’s killing little St. Kitts & Nevis, especially coupled with our deadly „winner takes all‟, „our turn, your turn‟ political mentality.
In his address to the people of Trinidad & Tobago at their Independence on 31st August, 1962, Prime Minister, Dr. Eric Williams said: “Together, the various groups in Trinidad & Tobago have suffered, together they have aspired, and together they have achieved. Only together can they succeed.
Only together can they build a society, only together can they build a nation, and only together can they build a homeland”.
“What will you make of your Independence? What will you transmit to your children? The first responsibility that devolves upon you is the protection and promotion of your democracy. Democracy means more, much more, than the right to vote. Democracy means recognition of the rights of others, equality in the eyes of the law, the protection of the weak against the strong, the responsibility of the Government to its citizens, and to the protection of its citizens from the exercise of arbitrary power and the violation of human freedoms and individual rights….It means the freedom of expression and assembly and organization….and it rests on a higher power. It rests on an informed and cultivated and alert public opinion”.
Dr. Williams‟ great vision for togetherness and democracy has been violated by subsequent leaders of Trinidad & Tobago, who have fostered, and have thrived on, divisiveness, because of their fear of losing power or of not getting it at all, and also because they don’t want to face a people who, if well informed, cultivated and alert, would be more likely to stand together on the fundamentals of community, society and nationhood, and to kick them out of office.
And the situation is the same here in St. Kitts & Nevis.
Then for their self-serving, divisive and manipulative ways, these bad leaders are hailed as good politicians. Nonsense. Good politicians respect and honor the people.
So with all that’s been said, after twenty nine years, the continuing exclusion of certain persons from the growing list of honorees paints a very ugly picture of us.
Let’s for a moment discuss honors from the British Crown.
Although we enjoy good relations with the UK, and are part of the Commonwealth, it could be argued that an honor bestowed by the British Monarch upon a citizen of St. Kitts & Nevis for his or her service to St. Kitts & Nevis suggests the puzzling existence, not only of a desire to be honored by a country to which he or she has rendered no service whatsoever, but also of what may be a lingering desire for recognition by a country which colonized us and from which we sought our independence. Neither notion sits well with me.
It’s as if our own, home-grown honors are inadequate, and that our personal stock and stature are better validated and enhanced by an honor from the Queen.
And it becomes even more troubling when the honor contains the words “British Empire”, although, to be fair, the absence of those words doesn’t make the honor, and the acceptance of it, any less odd. Just my opinion.
This honor „story‟ can become so extreme that I’ve heard of at least one instance in which an individual in a certain Caribbean country made a tidy contribution to an incumbent political interest, totally unbeknownst to any British Government official, of course, and got himself a Queen’s honor.
The way it worked, I’m told, was that the individual informed the incumbent interest of his desire to receive that specific honor, and offered, maybe by mere coincidence and out of the goodness of his heart, to make a contribution, as guided by the political interest; and that his contribution was accepted. This could very well be an isolated case, and my reference to it isn’t at all intended to disparage persons who’ve been recipients of the Queen’s honors. I‟m pretty sure that the vast majority of them have been deserving of an honor for their service to their countries.
But if the Elizabeth II were to learn that here honors may have been, or still are being, pimped, even in one or two cases, I’m sure she’d have a fit!
I’ve also heard one or two stories of similar transactions taking place in the region with regard to local awards. So, if the reports are accurate, the pimping may not be exclusive to the Queen’s honors.
There are some really „good‟ politicians in the region, eh!
Just quickly on the matter of pimping, I’ve been told of another instance in a Caribbean country where an election was coming up, and the incumbent interest wanted to use the services of a well-known criminal for some „political groundwork‟. The criminal was told that, for his services, he’d get some money as well as a parcel of Government land which he could then sell and cash in on.
He agreed to sell the land to a big shot and collected the full price for it. But he never paid for it and he fled the country, his pockets loaded with the big shots money.
This left the big shot in a jam, so he asked his pals in Government to assist. And they did. They found a way to satisfy him, with no money having to pass from him to the Government.
Pimping the Queen’s honors, pimping their own local honors, and pimping their people’s land. What could be more corrupt and sacrilegious than that?
But to whom do people complain, and how is justice meted out? The answer to this question is as obvious in one territory as it is in another. So these matters have virtually no chance of reaching a court of law.
Then the aggrieved people will be told that with all of their talk about corruption, they still can’t prove it. And the pimps keep on pimping, „good‟ politicians that they are. I believe that we in St. Kitts & Nevis need to focus more on our own honors, we need to honor more of our people, and we need to make sure that their stories and examples are known by our nation’s children, for inspiration, guidance and nation building.
And by honors I don’t mean just medals. I mean monuments, events, facilities, sections of facilities, areas, streets, alleyways, buildings, murals, books, stories, songs, bus stands, their faces on our money, and so on.
Tell me, after 29 years of independence, and centuries before that, how can it be that we have only three national heroes? What about J.M Sebastian, Edgar Challenger, Thomas Manchester and others of that era? What about stalwarts in fields of endeavour other than politics?
Does Dr. Kennedy Simmonds deserve to join that group? Labour doesn’t want to do it, but PAM does. What’s the right thing, and what’s the right process? Why should this be a decision for either group?
This is a classic example of the political divisiveness and immaturity, and of the need for an informed, cultivated and alert body politic, to which Eric Williams referred back in 1962.
What about Simeon Daniel?
And when streets, buildings and other things that are tangible and visible are named or erected in honor of these stalwarts, and our children are told the stories, and the plays acted are out, the poems are read, and the songs are sung, isn’t that when our children will start to really get the grounding, the self-knowledge, the self-confidence, the inspiration and the national pride that they so desperately need to make themselves and their nation better?
And doesn’t the very process of constructive public discussion of all of this provide us all with a glorious and exciting opportunity to be informed, cultivated, inspired and alert? I think so. So what about Kim Collins, who, by his efforts and accomplishments, has given unprecedented international recognition to our country and our flag that we could never have paid for? Who will match him in the future? When? And what’s the best, the fairest and the most decent way to show our appreciation, as a nation, to this man?
Does Reuben Percival a.k.a „Fighting Hunks‟ not deserve to have something in Conaree named in his honor? Likewise for Emile Pike a.k.a „Sporting Tiger‟ or „Topsy‟ in the Halfway Tree area? Isn’t it time for us to have a good gym where these two stars can spend their last years moulding young men and women in the discipline of boxing? Might there be a Muhammad Ali, Ray Leonard, or Laila Ali walking our land, waiting to be discovered, and improve?
Isn’t one of the best ways of honoring a people is to nurture their talents?
And what about Caryl Phillips, born in St. Pauls Village, St. Kitts in 1958, migrating to England as a child and growing up to become one of the world’s leading and most decorated novelists and essayists in the English language today?
He has also written screenplays and taught at universities in Ghana, Sweden, Singapore, Barbados, India and the USA (Columbia and Yale).
How many little Caryl Phillips‟ are there walking this land right now, not having a clue as to the immense talent residing in them to be novelists, playwrights, poets, or plain old lovers of literature, language and discourse, needing only the inspiration and guidance to set them straight?
Isn’t this man worthy of a major national honor?
And tell me, what multiple murders has James „Barman‟ Hanley committed? It’s difficult to imagine any person who has served sport in this country more effectively and conscientiously than he has served basketball.
The poor man can’t even get a job. He was sent home over a year ago, at the age of 52 years. He wasn’t wanted any more. Lord, have mercy.
What about the soldier, Corporal Joseph Bergan, who was shot and seriously wounded in the line of duty some years ago, and the police officer, Sergeant Clive Benjamin, who was killed in service of the people of this country?
And I can name a number of other persons who’ve been left out. It isn’t right. They need to get their medals, and/or to have streets, alleys, buildings, facilities, or whatever else named in their honor. Failure to honor deserving people is itself dishonorable, and honoring people in a process which is tainted by political divisiveness or some other obstacle is just as dishonorable.
As I end on the subject of honor, there are two positions which need to be filled in the Government: Supervisor of Elections, and Registration Officer for Nevis 2.
A major effort is needed to restore confidence and honor here, and I think that former Police Commissioner, Mr. Calvin Fahie, former Acting Police Commissioner, Mr. Meredith Charles, and former Assistant Police Commissioner, Mr. Joseph Liburd, would be good choices to fill the two positions, either way.
And for the Supervisor position, I’d add Mrs. Josephine Huggins, proprietor of East Caribbean Printers, and former Defence Force Commander, Colonel Norman Williams, both no-nonsense and reputable persons who, like the three former cops, would be guided by the Constitution, by the relevant law, and by fairness and compassion.
Can we do this honorably?