Nov 24, 2017
Prime Minister of St. Vincent, Ralph Gonsalves in 2014 did an analysis titled, “The Idea of Barbados.” His analysis was published in Barbados Today and attracted widespread academic response.
Gonsalves posits that the central core of the post-colonial British West Indies is Barbados. He puts Barbados as the success story of the post-colonial Caribbean. Using all the categories of political economy, he argues that on every level CARICOM countries should and must learn from Barbados.
Here is an extract; “Barbados has arrived at a place where its uniqueness represents a model of governance, political economy, way of life, and social order, which invites emulation elsewhere in the Caribbean and further afield, albeit with appropriate amendments. Barbados’ high quality governance and level of human development have been a marvel to objective observers, including reputable international agencies.
“On a wide range of governance and developmental indices, Barbados is in the top rank globally; indeed, overall, it is a developing country with developed nations’ governance and human development attainments.”
Gonsalves then makes a graphic point when he wrote; “All this is extraordinary for a country of 166 square miles and a quarter million people, which is less than 200 years removed from slavery and less than 50 years as an independent nation! I make bold to say that other CARICOM member states aspire to being an “idea”, but none has quite achieved that status.
Jamaica is a brand, but not an idea. Rastafarianism, Bob Marley, Usain Bolt and Sandals have helped to shape the Jamaican brand, a marketing tool to attract visitors, but it is not a transcendental idea that infuses the body politic and society to consolidated progressive achievements, nationally.
Trinidad is an incomplete national formation with immense possibilities but constrained by a bundle of limitations, including rising lawlessness.”
Here is the comparison with Guyana and Barbados; “Guyana’s natural condition is still untamed, but a nation that possesses enormous potential.” That statement is one that the present generation maybe has heard because long before Independence it has been repeated literally millions of time. One guesses that young Guyanese have heard it too because it is so often said.
The generation of this columnist has grown up with this statement that came from every conceivable stranger visiting Guyana ranging from presidents and prime ministers to stevedores from foreign ships docking in Port Georgetown.
When Carl Hooper became an international cricket star, the observation took on an intriguing interest. Without exception, cricket commentators and cricket experts opined that his potential was so great that once realized he will be the greatest batsman the game will ever see. The West Indies went on to produce its Carl Hooper but it wasn’t the Guyanese Carl Hooper. All other cricketing nation went on to have their Carl Hooper; Guyana didn’t. Hooper was like the country that gave him birth – the potential was extraordinary vast but it never materialized.
In 2014, almost seventy years (from the forties onwards) after that assertion about Guyana’s potential was made, St. Vincent’s Prime Minister repeats it. But it rings hollow in the ear of those who have lived in Guyana over the decades since Independence.
Visiting President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Sir Dennis Byron, told his audience recently that it is time for digital recording of court proceedings in Guyana. One of the most infamous blots on the modern landscape in Guyana is the judicial notepad.
A magistrate and a judge with pen and paper record all that is said by witnesses and lawyers during a trial. It is an ugly scene from a primitive age to visualize. Many times, the magistrate and judge would ask you to repeat so the correct wording could be recorded.
One wonders what goes through the mind of judicial luminaries like Sir Byron who come from small islands in the Caribbean where the proceedings are recorded but in a huge country like Guyana with the vastness of potential, we use end sand paper in our judicial system.
When you juxtapose this reality with the words a Minister recently exclaimed to me, then, you know Guyana is not an idea and will never be an idea (they say never say never but I am saying it unapologetically).
Our courts continue with the anachronistic practice of writing what transpires in a court case yet this minister feels that the vendors on the Camp Street seawall makes the site look terrible and unkempt with derelict fridges from which they sell their sodas. Which is more harmful to Guyana- the unkempt process of pen and paper in the courts or old fridges on the seawall?