Human Rights, Nationhood and Independence

NEXT week, Saint Lucia will observe Human Rights Day (Monday, December 10) and National Day (Thursday, December 13). And in between — on Tuesday December 11 — the UK Parliament will vote on whether Britain opts to make itself totally independent of the rest of the European Union (EU) next year. And all this is happening just about two months before Saint Lucia observes its 40th Anniversary of Independence (on February 22, 2019).

Human Rights Day celebrates the Universal Declaration that gave it birth 70 years ago. As this island’s main human rights advocate Mary Francis aptly argues in a special statement issued on behalf of this island’s only human rights body (the National Centre For Legal Aid And Human Rights Inc) ahead of Monday’s observance, the Declaration ‘has stood the test of time’ (See Page 11). But that said, she also argues that much will have to change, over time, before the principles that gave it birth — and its provisions — are to be considered appropriately regarded locally.

National Day 2018 is still being celebrated in the traditional way, with greater focus more on the arts. As per usual, the National Independence Planning Committee has organized a calendar of activities, this time leading from National Day 2018 to Independence Day 2019. For our part, The VOICE publishes in this issue the 2018 National Day Supplement, in which we have sought to move slightly away from the usual concentration on national symbols to more of Saint Lucia’s history, how our island got its name and the historical association of December 13 with Christopher Columbus.

Also in this issue is a special supplement to mark the 80th anniversary of the St. Lucia Cooperative Bank, which recently morphed into the 1st National Bank of Saint Lucia. This is a truly national institution worth celebrating — the island’s first indigenous bank, established with clients being able to open accounts with One Penny, thus earning it the name ‘The Penny Bank’ at a time when Barclays Bank PLC reigned supreme. The Cooperative Bank gave its shareholders and clients an early sense of independence that simply didn’t exist before – just as 1st National is today seeking to continue the tradition as an innovative banking institution in the new finance age.

In most of our observances of dates of historical or other importance, we tend to place more emphasis on celebratory aspects than on what the ‘day’ is supposed to highlight. December 1 indeed marked the start of the National Day and Christmas home stretches, which will continue into the New Year – and then into Nobel Laureates and Independence celebrations.

But as the world changes around us, we may very well need to also take another good and long look at ourselves, this time perhaps more serious than ever before.

The UK Government is today fighting a very tough battle to implement the decision of a 52% referendum to leave the EU. This is a ruling party and government that opposed leaving the EU, but is now fighting for the right to lead Britain out on terms that most MPs have strong doubts about, including within the Cabinet.

Whatever deal is arrived at, if and when Britain leaves, that will have serious implications for the UK economy and every UK citizen will be affected. But most of all, it will affect Great Britain. There will naturally be consequences for Saint Lucia, along with the rest of the Caribbean, African and Pacific countries in the ACP grouping. While we sing, dance and make merry for the holidays and holy days ahead, when the UK MPs finally vote on Tuesday, there will be implications for us all. But do we care?

As a nation, we’ll be 40 years old very soon. By other nations’ measure, we’re still a very young nation. But in this age of Climate Change and Artificial Intelligence, we share a planet that’s still very much our own, but which is becoming increasingly difficult to inhabit and manage – in which case, we’d better start growing-up. And quickly.

Happy National Day, Saint Lucia.

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