Letters & Opinion

A Wednesday to Remember

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

Wednesday was a busy day for me.

A Venezuelan navy supply ship left here Wednesday for St. Vincent and the Grenadines with supplies from Saint Lucia, Cuba and Venezuela.

It was another of those newsworthy events that wasn’t deemed worthy enough to attract local media interest, but it was welcome news elsewhere, including St. Vincent, Cuba and Venezuela.

Not that it was a quickie, as the Venezuelan ship spent all of five days in Port Castries.

But while the media continued monitoring COVID-19 numbers in 2021 just the same old way like in 2020 and speculating on when the Prime Minister may call the next election, NEMO, SLASPA, the Cuban and Venezuelan Embassies in Castries and the Government of Saint Lucia worked to ensure water, special rubber masks and other essential emergency supplies were loaded onto the large vessel – including six Cuban doctors.

As I watched a social media video of the Venezuelan ship entering and leaving the harbour for and with supplies and listened to Saint Lucians opening their hearts on DBS’ ‘Street Vibes’ to Vincentians, I felt proud.

Saint Lucia’s two air and sea ports and its strategic location had allowed it, yet again, to be the main base of operations for shipping emergency supplies to neighbouring OECS islands.

It had done so twice in 2017 for Dominica and other islands to its north and now for St. Vincent to its south.

Viewing the ship leaving from the vantage point of the vicinity of Old Vigie Lighthouse would have afforded anyone a clear understanding of why the British and French fought 14 times for this island — and named it ‘Helen of the West’.

It was precisely for its strategic location that after Saint Lucian slaves rebelled in  the 1790s and established an independent state (after the French Revolution but before the Haitian Revolution), the French and British gathered up to 17,000 troops and invaded the island to crush them.

It was during one of those fierce battles that the fabled song emerged about the ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ and his ‘ten thousand men’ who he ‘marched them up to the top of the hill and marched them down again…’

What the song didn’t say is that the ‘hill’ referred to was Morne Fortune in Castries, where Saint Lucia’s so-called Neg Mawon (Runaway Slaves or Freedom Fighters) dealt deadly blows to the Duke’s bigger but lighter brigade – until the brave souls were overcome by the numbers.

The rebellion’s leaders were shipped out of the Castries harbor on the ‘London’ for sale in Britain, but the ship wrecked off the coast of Devon in 1796 – and their bones remain in British hands, absolutely refusing to even consider repatriating them to Saint Lucia.

But that’s for another column…

Back to Wednesday, when, while the Venezuelan supply ship was still on its way to St. Vincent with water and other emergency relief supplies, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken held what was scheduled to be a one-hour online meeting with CARICOM foreign affairs ministers.

It was his first such meeting with his 14 Caribbean counterparts since President Joe Biden took office and the get-to-know-you meeting amounted to more of an online presentation of credentials than a discussion of what the new US administration can, will or should do to transform repeated platitudinous promises of American assistance to ‘The Caribbean Basin’ from words to actions and investments that really count for Caribbean people.

From the Reagan administration’s promises following the invasion of Grenada in 1983 through the two President Bushes, Obama and Trump to Biden – none has done anything more than maintain the US choke-hold over regional security through its creation, training and supply of the OECS’ Regional Security System (RSS) and its bilateral security ties with individual CARICOM states.

Never mind the establishment by Reagan of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), promised US investments have not come as promised and US trade deficit with the Caribbean has simply grown forever higher since then.

Indeed, the US uses the Leahy Act to punish Saint Lucia (for not proceeding with the implementation of the judicial recommendations of the IMPACS report into the alleged extrajudicial killings of over a dozen persons by the police) by refusing to provide the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) with any arms, ammunition or other military supplies (including for the Marine Unit’s coast-guarding vessels) or inviting it to any regional or international security meetings financed by US taxpayers.

But that too is for another column…

Back to Wednesday… While the supply ship was heading to St. Vincent and the US Secretary of State was showing his face online to his Caribbean counterparts, outgoing CARICOM Secretary General Edwin La Roq was virtually attending his last such meeting.

With the outgoing Dominica-born Secretary General due to attend his last CARICOM Summit in July, a special panel was that same day interviewing two women candidates for his replacement — from Belize and Surinam.

I understand there’s some partisan hullabaloo on Facebook about me having supposedly engaged in ‘spreading fake news’, ‘false reports’ and ‘pure lies’ about Saint Lucia’s Dr June Soomer being a third candidate.

But in my 45 years writing every single day, I have never once had to apologize for lying, far less for misleading – and I’m not about to begin trying to explain simple English to people who instinctively don wooden goggles whenever they see my byline, or plug their ears whenever my name is mentioned.

The so-called ‘Silly Season’ is here again — and sticks and stones will (again be used to) break my bones.

But after my luckily miraculous revival from my last near-fatal ‘accident’ that led to a successful five-hour surgery that inserted more plates, nuts and bolts into my body and wrecked me into a wheelchair and on crutches, walkers and walking-sticks for ten months, how many more can they break?

That too, is for another show!

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