Tag Archive: SVG


2017-02-14

First international flight lands at the Argyle International Airport (courtesy Elroy Martin’s facebook)

The Argyle International Airport opens in St Vincent and the Grenadines today, February 14, 2017, ushering in a totally new era in the socioeconomic journey of this small multi-island state. At $729, 000, 000, it is by far the largest capital project in our country’s thirty seven years’ history as an independent nation. The international airport was an accomplishment which many believed could not be successfully done, but one politician’s ambitious goal became the nation’s golden egg. As the saying goes, even a blind man can see that the realization of an international airport for St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is bigger than any one man, any one government, any one political party.

A new future is now possible. Tomorrow’s history has been changed infinitely.

Vincentians can now feel as citizens of this modern globalized world. Without a doubt, this was a dream for many generations of past Vincentians; to many, it was the kind of dream that you thought was silly because it was practically far-fetched, or was useless to pursue as it was not going to happen in your life time.

Now much has been said about the almost unlimited challenges and delays associated with the building of the Argyle International Airport. But it is the future challenges which this airport brings to our Vincentian citizens that I wish to speak to in this post.

I felt a sense of the political maturing of our island’s politics when the new leader of the oppositions commented in parliament that the international airport is too big a project to fail. He stressed the need for all Vincentians to work together in order to guarantee the success of the Argyle International Airport (AIA). I commend his wisdom. Effective leadership will periodically require a leader to bow graciously to the achievement and success of opponents. We should never allow the trees of our selfish wants to block our view of the forest of our country’s progress and well-being.

Vincentians of all walks of life are converging at Argyle today to witness the many historic landings and take-offs by regional and more so, international carriers. Some three international flights will touch down at the airport today.

But these flights have been chartered. Come tomorrow, the airport will be empty as all the supporters and party enthusiasts return to their various places of residence or occupational localities. I would hope that the relevant arms of government would have been in deep negotiations with business and tourism markets to foster a desire for people to want to travel to SVG.

However, that is one side of the coin.

The other side is that we need to begin changing the expectations and attitudes of our people here in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Having an international airport must not be allowed to be only thought of as a one day public holiday event to go watch inaugural flights, drink and be merry, and then return from whence we came.

Now is the critical time that a new educational thrust be initialized in schools, villages, liming places, community centers, places of work, social media, electronic and print media–all with the purpose of helping locals to understand and feel the new possibilities that an international airport brings. This is a life-changing development for all our people.

Beginning today, simple, varied, but new linkage industries must start to blossom on mainland St Vincent and in the 32 Grenadines islands. We must begin to cultivate and show forth opportunities, attractions and localized experiences that will make visitors, investors and people from various parts around the world want to come to SVG.

We cannot just sit back and wonder where are all the international flights. We must not allow ourselves to have to indefinitely continue to travel to  regional hubs for our connecting flights to other parts of the world.The government, in particularly the prime minister, has given us all this new international airport. Now we must give sustainable life to the airport. It’s a time when all the creative, critical thinking and entrepreneurial skills of Vincentians must be set ablaze.

This is a national day of thanksgiving to the Lord. Long live the Argyle International Airport.

 

 

 

The twenty-first century has seen a disturbingly regrettable trend of more and more parents of academically average children playing less and less active role in their children’s education during the school year here in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Every year, even before students can get into their summer flow, the back-to-school hype literally invades their minds via radio, television, and now the internet and telephone advertising. Parents are enthusiastically busy getting their children registered into new schools, buying books, uniforms and paying other preparatory expenses. But where do these parents disappear to after day one of the new school year?

A successful education system, such as we allege to have in SVG depends on the collaboration of the student, teacher, school, home and community. Learning is indeed a partnership. But partners in this education process are becoming woefully negligent and even uncaring. Years ago, it was the norm to find that parents would make it their business to know their children’s teachers, to keep in continuous contact with the school and to reinforce education policies and school decisions at home.

But today, the environment and world of learning that schools offer students in the classroom is tantamount to a fleeting fairy-tale feeling of bliss while at the movies, because after the school bell rings, many children are returning to homes and communities with very contrasting views on schooling and life values.

It is a reality we cannot afford to ignore much longer.

Generally speaking, the education policies, from the Ministry of Education to the individual school regulations, have been doing their fair share of keeping students on task and actively involved in their learning. But there is very little structure and support for the students outside their classrooms. As it is now, far too many children, some as young as those in primary schools, are being just left on their own to literally become young independents. They are home alone after school, they have no set bed time hour, they go wherever they want, they do whatever they want, and on mornings they are told by their parents who go to work and leave them at home, to get themselves ready for school ad go to school.

Of course, many of them don’t habitually go to school, or they go to school regularly late.

So the question is: Why is this generation of parents neglecting their most vital parenting responsibilities as regards their children’s education during the school year? Well, perhaps the following real-life incident might shed light on the causes.

When summer was ending in 2014 I was making my way through the market when some parents began talking about the reopening of school. “Let school hurry up open,” the first parent said. “Yes,” was the quick reply of a second parent. “I can’t keep any food in the fridge for this whole month of August.” A third parent then said, “My electricity bill went sky high because the children home watching TV every day.” Then a fourth parent said: “The other day I go home and meet the water hose turned on. The water run whole day because the child at home and been playing with the hose.”

The above comments suggest to me that the primary function of school for the average parent is to give them a relief from the “burden” of looking after their own children on a daily basis. Something is causing a paradigm shift in local parenting. This is evident from incidents when a parent is highly upset that she has to report to her child’s school because he or she was suspended. Long ago the anger would have been focused on the reason the child was suspended in the first place. Now it is aimed at the school for disrupting the parent’s “vacation” from life without the child around.

This parenting shift is also real when a parent can also declare in front of their child that they don’t love or care about that child; that their money, attention and love is going to the brother or sister at another school. That’s an actual development.

The time has come for parental courses, tutorials, help-a-thons or the like, to be made available for many parents. Many of them are proving unable–or unwilling–to cope with their basic responsibilities of parenting their school-going children.

No child asked to be born, so when that child is born it is the duty of the parent to start living a sacrificial life for the child; however, what is happening is that many parents wish to continue living as though they have no children. That is a recipe for the failure of the child.

Yes, parents may have to work, but they should not just accept that they leave home before the child wake up, or that they come home late at nights hours after the child reached home from school. Parents, you have an equal responsibility to make sure some mature adult is there before and after school.

Children are also  leaving home and returning from school with no adult to inspect or monitor the contents of their bags or pockets. The moral straying in this area is infinite. From not taking books to school to bringing back books, cell phone, drugs or money that does not belong to them, are all possible results because children are unsupervised at home or left unchecked.

When a child can buy their own uniform, stitch in the pants, or wear multiple pieces to school–something is wrong with the way parenting is done. When a child’s report from December is still uncollected in June–something is wrong with the way parenting is done.

Has the time come for parents of school-going children to sign a legal parenting contract which spells out specific things that they must do after registering their child, or getting the new bag, books and uniform for September?

Could it be that the twenty-first century parents are having children as a consequence of sexual activity, rather than having intercourse because they genuinely want to have children?

The answers to  those questions are critically important if schooling has to once again become the noble and proven way of giving indigent children an escape from poverty.

In too many instances, school is being reduced to a mere baby-sitting hub where children only give priority to the after-school lime with their fellow students from across the island when they gather in the capital city and stand at the bus stop for hours each and every evening.

Education is still a valuable asset, and schooling is still a fundamental necessity but we are fooling ourselves if we only make back-to-school an emotional hype of making a social statement and then abandon the children to sink in the academic seas of actual reading, studying and doing home-work. We should really not celebrate back to school without prioritizing going back to parenting.

 

 

 

 

SVG: A Country Politically Divided

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The 2015 general elections are over but the traditional two-party contest has left St Vincent and the Grenadines a politically divided country. The outcome has shown that the governing party, the Unity Labour Party (ULP) was returned to power with 8 seats, while the New Democratic Party (NDP) won the remaining seven seats.

The result is a carbon copy of the 2010 general elections results.

And that is political history being made in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Here is why. On all previous occasions in SVG when a political party won an election with only a one seat majority in parliament, that party has always lost the very next general elections. Even the NDP was counting on history to repeat itself. But history recreated itself instead.

The interesting thing to note is that both parties won the exact seats or constituencies which they won (or lost) in the 2010 general elections.

But the reason for this post is to stress the obvious deterioration in the levels of peaceful campaigning and acceptance of results by the party which has been striving to take the reins of power in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the NDP. Now, before I comment further on my observations on this, I am going to share my own political experiences as an enthusiastic voter when I attained the age of eligibility to cast my ballot.

I first voted in the 1994 general elections. Which party did I vote for? What factors contributed to my decision in 1994 when I was a virgin voter? Well, it goes back to the year 1984, when as a young child I sat on the wooden bench in the backyard kitchen with my mother as she peeled the ground provisions for that day’s lunch. Campaigners from the NDP passed by. They were sharing out the relevant posters and leaflets with the candidates contesting the elections.

It was the first time I was seeing and getting to know who James Mitchel was. “The man who would become prime minister,” according to my mother. And sure enough the NDP won the elections. I was just in Junior 2  at the time(grade 3 today).

Then, courtesy of the Vincentian newspaper and the Government Information Service (GIS) I was able to follow much of the workings of James Mitchel and his ministers. I give them credit for bringing electricity and telephone service to my childhood rural village. I also give them credit for the construction and opening of many, many roads, clinics, post offices and schools across the island. They also  helped many suffering elderly people to finally access pipe borne water right in their own homes.

But as an aspiring student growing up in the 80s and 90s I always felt that the government of the day was not seeing or valuing the human resource potential in the country. I remember thinking just how hard–if not futile–it was to continue one’s education after completing secondary school. And even getting to secondary school was a stressful competition. Just one mark in the then Common Entrance Exam often ended the education pursuits of many ordinary students.

Getting into the sole Form 6 at the St Vincent Grammar School (A’ Level) was another competitive big deal. Throughout all of SVG, only one or two annual scholarships were being given out. And often times, the awardees would have surnames which inferred that their parents already had finances which could have paid their way through university in any case.

Additionally, by 1994 I had begun to feel that our prime minister was somehow taking the country for granted. This conclusion came specifically from more than one Independence Day parade and speech ceremony which James Mitchel would have missed because he was overseas at the time. Yes, leaders need to travel, but certainly you can reschedule or designate someone to take your place when your country’s Independence Day comes around.

Nevertheless, the NDP was being celebrated nationally as the government of choice. But I was learning at school that we had a democratic system. I was not seeing democracy at work if the same party was winning all the general elections. I felt stifled. I felt that NDP owned the country. You should know that in the 1989 general elections the electorate gave ALL the seats in parliament to the NDP.

That in itself was historic!

So for five years, from 1989-1994, St Vincent and the Grenadines had absolutely no opposition in parliament. As young as I was, I realized that was NOT a good situation for any people–not even if you are a supporter of the ruling party. It was in that time that former owner of the Vincentian newspaper, Edgeton Richards, started his weekly column called People’s Parliament, which attempted to be a national opposition voice in the country.

So, with all these experiences, when I voted for that first time in 1994, I voted for an opposition. Now, a sad thing about the electorate’s voting pattern in SVG, is that persons always feel that they must vote for the same party all the time. But I think that kills democracy.

The NDP won the 1994 general elections, quite comfortably I might add. I felt bad but now there were three opposition members in the parliament. Then in 1998 the bell rang again and Vincentians went back to the polls. I voted the opposition because it was evident that the NDP was running out of capital projects, the leader was not an ordinary Vincentian who mixed with commoners, and the human resource continued to be ignored.

But I felt the sense of disappointment, shame of defeat and confinement once again to the political wilderness as a supporter of an opposition party for a further five years.

But whether or not our party won, we all rallied, respected, and rated the country’s prime minister as our prime minister. Then in 2001, sensing that hope was about to give birth to much needed political change, I voted once more for the opposition.

This time the change came.

I recalled that on that night, March 28, 2001, the broadcasters of the results did not say that a new government had come to power in the country. They just ended the broadcast as though nothing significant happened.

Today, in 2015, supporters of the NDP are feeling the agony of political defeat. It is hard to bear. But I know how it feels. In the days leading up to the general elections, I heard a radio announcer on Nice radio, literally cursing, and using the word “hell” in order to campaign for the NDP. I thought how disturbingly sad. The radio was traditionally an instrument of good will. Now, because of politics, people are cursing on it.

Throughout various communities, supporters of the two main parties also seemed ready for a physical battle which could start at any time. In North Leeward, the ULP candidate said that he had to resort to pulling his gun after getting no relief from the throwing of bottles on the roof of a shop where he and his supporters had run to for cover from NDP supporters.

In that same constituency, the NDP candidate, who later retained his seat in the 2015 general elections, declared that there are some places he is afraid to go to hold political meetings.

And do not talk about Sion Hill. The street alone separated the ULP’s red from the NDP’s yellow. It was tit for tat campaigning there. Although the NDP leader retained his seat in that constituency, it was interesting to note that his margin of victory was one of the narrowest in the entire general elections. And he ran against a very young ULP candidate.

The NDP is also claiming that the ULP stole the elections by cheating and so winning the Central Leeward seat, now being represented by Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Luis Straker.

On the morning following the elections, the NDP asked supporters to gather at the Layou Police Station to witness the recount of the votes. I saw a video clip of the leader of the NDP right up in the face of Luis Straker. The atmosphere and the body language, as well as words being spoken, suggested to me that the political leader of the NDP was getting ready to physically hit the ULP’s candidate for Central Leeward, Luis Straker.

Today, NDP supporters are protesting in the capital city, Kingstown, outside the prime minister’s office, hours before the ULP holds a public rally in Kingstown where the portfolio of ministers will be announced. I also heard citizens in Kingstown saying that NDP supporters were talking of shooting individuals, as well as saying that they intend to burn down houses.

Now, having supported a party in opposition in years gone, I know it is painful to see your party still in opposition after an election, but the animalistic verbal utterances are dangerous signs of reaching a political cliff.

And we must remember that active politicians of the two main parties are pretty much like Hollywood movie stars.  They play a certain public role. But whatever the results of elections are, their bread is already buttered (as we would say in our Vincentian culture). The prime minister alluded to the fact that the leader of the opposition (NDP leader) is being paid $180 000 per year. That works out to about $15 000 every month.

Wow!

Politicians are on easy street but it is sad that it is the commoners who are more and more literally ready to kill their fellow Vincentian for a political party. And for most citizens, their individual lives will experience very little visible, measurable or permanent improvement, no matter which party is in government.

The Supervisor of Elections here in SVG just released a statement of her reflection on the 2015 general elections. In it she speaks of being verbally harassed at her office by NDP supporters and their lawyers. She cites an instance where she gave a public figure in the NDP permission to take pictures of one of the ballot boxes during the recount in the Central Leeward constituency, only to find out later that the person used that footage on social media as their evidence that a ballot box was stolen.

The Supervisor of Elections had to be given direct police protection and escort as she moved about to fulfil her duties. In fact, armed police guards had to be deployed when the ballot boxes and other election documents were being transported from their respective constituencies. Such was the case before the leader of the ULP could have been sworn in as the country’s prime minister for a fourth term.

The question is: How many other general elections can St Vincent and the Grenadines peacefully survive in the future? Steps must be taken now to preserve democracy in our electoral system if we are to give future generations any possibility of living in this country.

SVG Netball Champs 2012

St Vincent and the Grenadines defeated last year’s champions to become the 2012 Regional Netball Champions. The nail-biting finals happened in Grenada last Thursday.

Of course it is always an ecstatic feeling to hear of my country performing well in regional and international competitive events. There is still much work to do in promoting an awareness of the geographical location, cultural identity and economic potential of my small multi-island territory of St Vincent and the Grenadines nested in the Eastern Caribbean.

 

Watch this video to learn more about St Vincent and the Grenadines

 

So obviously I extend vociferous congratulations to this young squad of netballers who have etched another indelible mark into the history books. Over the years St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has often produced exceptional ladies at the top of their netball performance.

The local netball association has to be commended as well. I would suggest a redoubling of efforts in teaching the young children this game which has traditionally brought recognition to us as Vincentians. I remember that netball was just as visible on the playing field as soccer or cricket when I was in primary school.

Such must be the continued thrust: the school curriculum, directly or indirectly, must expose with much excitement the rewards and pleasures of playing netball. Not only must netball be given priority at the primary level of schooling but probably even more importantly netball must be stridently pushed also at the secondary school level. Sports is a great open door for many at risk juveniles and otherwise under-performing youths.

This game has the potential to give many a Vincentian girl the motivation and self discipline they need to claim a purpose for their lives. By playing netball they can be influenced to set personal goals which would delay unplanned pregnancies and set a proper foundation for their future.

This 2012 regional victory by our young netball squad is a time for us in St Vincent and the Grenadines to reshape the national focus on the role of netball in the lives of our younger generation.

Outline map of St Vincent and the Grenadines

Of all the islands in the Caribbean, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) ranks in the top for its marine and landscape beauty, the friendliness and peaceful stability of its villages and towns and its non polluted environment. But my country is also one of the least known islands on the international scene.

And maybe that has its advantages in that being less popular means that a pristine and naturally happy environment may be longer lasting; nonetheless, we all like to know that we can travel abroad and be comforted that others have heard about the country of our birth. That is why when a friend of mine notified me of a news story in the international media which was promoting St. Vincent and the Grenadines I quickly investigated for myself.

Chris Hall is the author of the travel article  and I commend him for his simplicity  and apt descriptors that makes it easy for the audience to have a striking image in their mind’s eye of SVG.

I end by quoting a part of Mr Hall’s article. I highly recommend that you follow the link at the bottom of this post to read the article in its entirety.

“…when I arrive on St Vincent, I realise I have tumbled into exactly the Caribbean I was expecting.This is the Caribbean of the imagination, an archipelago of 32 islands – St Vincent and the Grenadines, to give it its full, grand name – scattered luxuriously across the eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea. From St Vincent, the largest, in the north, they trail south, towards Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, and eventually, South America – a ribbon of land in the blue of the ocean.”

via Caribbean holidays: St Vincent and the Grenadines are a slice of paradise | Mail Online.

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