AWARD-WINNING poet, Vladimir Lucien, says the key to regaining Saint Lucia’s sovereignty lies in the island’s pursuit of reparations for slavery from its former colonizer, Britain.
Lucien, who delivered this year’s Independence Lecture at the Gros Islet Secondary School last Thursday evening, titled his presentation, “Playin’ de Arts: Delinquency, Sovereignty and the Saint Lucian Imagination”.
Lucien articulated various aspects of Saint Lucian-ness, including the beauty and inherent pride in the island’s people, traditions, outstanding achievements, natural beauty and aspirations. Seeking reparations instead of perpetuating mendicancy, he suggested, is the path to that sovereignty left outstanding after 37 years of Independence.
“One of the key things for us to regain our sovereignty has been the fact that we never took on the idea of reparations until now,” Lucien told The VOICE following his lecture. “Now that we’re doing so and reinstating our humanity and our rights, we’re demanding reparatory justice – not asking for handouts. Reparations is intrinsically connected to our ability to act as a sovereign nation.”
During his presentation, Lucien described Saint Lucia’s sovereignty as “an act of imagining nation out of unrelenting colony” which took “so-called delinquents and rebels to rebel against colony” to create a new state. However, the journey is far from over.
“It will take imagination from our current leaders, and also the capability to rebel against entities threatening that sovereignty in the global village to maintain that sovereignty, not out of a kind of pride or vacuous hauteur but out of a genuine understanding of what that sovereignty is and means, and why it ought to be defended to begin with,” Lucien argued.
According to Lucien, the sociological explanations to society’s problems are not telling us enough and thus call for deeper probing. Settling for hollow answers to society’s many socio-economic problems, he said, might be expedient but encourage more problems because the deeper problems are not dealt with efficiently and effectively.
“What we ought to be striving for is integrity,” Lucien responded when asked to comment on what the collective society needs to do towards attaining that sovereignty. “This means that when we act, we do so with a togetherness and understanding of self. Sovereignty is a way of telling that: that we act even against all things, our ability to act independently; not impervious to outside advice but, in the final analysis, deciding what’s best for us and for our spirit.”
Lucien, whose first collection of poems, “Sounding Ground”, won the poetry category and best overall prize at last year’s OCM Bocas Prize, added that while many of the problems facing Saint Lucia and Saint Lucians are not easily surmountable, the best possible deal needs to be sought.
He cited the ongoing fallout for the IMPACS report as an important juncture where leaders need to take the appropriate decisions to deal with local affairs and not at the behest of foreign influences.
“We have to decide what we have to do because we have to live in the society where these things happened,” Lucien said. “Not the United States or whoever else is telling us what we need to do. If we don’t make that decision for ourselves on our own terms, we will see a Saint Lucia we don’t want to see in the next 20 to 50 years.”