A former governor and well known lawyer, author and historian, Sir Probyn Inniss, has recently added his voice to the chorus of calls for government and each citizen to do their part to sensitize the population about those events and periods of their history that have helped to shape modern St. Kitts and Nevis.
Sir Probyn is of the view that when we look at the modern history of St. Kitts and Nevis, starting from the 1930s, one may find that there is a kind of Schizophrenia.
The tragedy is that, apart from the fact that people are not writing our history generally, one finds that there is such a violent division of opinion that there are people who cannot agree on any of the facts relating to these developments, stated Sir Probyn, while being interviewed on local radio.
He said it is like this little society of ours is always starting over, repeating the errors of the past. The former governor explained it is as if we have learnt nothing at all from these incidents such as the uprising in 1896, 1935 and even 1993. It is as if we revel in these events for their sake and we are not seeking to learn, not seeking to heal, and move beyond those particular incidents…and this is a problem, added Inniss.
“This obsession of promoting history and heritage…should not just be a month, but rather a continuous affair. We are trying to reach out to the government and in particular the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Culture, to see what they can do to keep this a live issue throughout the year,” touted Sir Probyn.
He said that there is much for black Kittitians and Nevisians to be proud of, when it comes to their history. The historian revealed that 1935 and 1896 proved that our ancestors were brave, defiant and prepared to sacrifice anything in order to make sure that their children and grandchildren had a better life.
That is why there is such an urgent need to chronicle these developments so that generations to come can have a better appreciation of their own history.
It is advocated that something of substance needs to be written so that our people can read, analyse and come to their own conclusions about the various historical chapters of which there has been so much discussion.
However, said Inniss, there seems to be an unwillingness, though the abilities may exist, to write about our own history, and this may be affecting us as we try to shape our future.
Another matter that occupied the attention of the former governor was that of reparation, which is also being demanded, especially by sections of the Rastafarian Movement.
But Inniss stated that when it comes to reparation, “I have a problem with those who use the word as if it were some kind of incantation. This reparation issue has been around for quite a while; we know what the arguments for and against are. Therefore we want to make the point that there is a lot of work for us to do because reparation is not just about money. It is also about how we prepare and equip ourselves and empower ourselves, so that if by chance some money came, we would be able to make some use of it, as oppose to wasting it.”
He also reminded that in the year 2000, some Rastafarians from Jamaica wrote to the Queen of England on the subject of reparation.
In her reply, this is what the British Queen said, in part:
“Governments today cannot take responsibility for what happened over 150 years ago. We regret and condemn the inequities of (the) slave trade but those shameful activities belong to the past.”
He said he shared that extract only to illustrate that we already know what the arguments are against any kind of reparation being paid, unless something dramatic really happens, and unless we are able to win the argument in the courts that matter.
The denial of reparation though, said the former governor, must not prevent our citizens from building their nation.
“…there are things we need to do, including getting on with the business of growing, developing and empowering ourselves, and not to be just raising false hopes and expectations, as if to say that there are billions out there, and they are not paying it to us, and don’t do anything, just wait (because) we are going to get those billions…am saying let us work, let us use what we’ve got in order to improve our lot.”