There’s something quite savvy and forthright about Saint Lucia’s Tourism Minister – particularly, concerning his outspoken jibes on the nature of foreign trade and wider relations with foreign countries.
Ever since, he made his political debut with the success of the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) at the July 2021 polls, Dr. Ernest Hilaire has been somewhat of a ‘crusader’ speaking out against global issues affecting the Small Developing States (SDGs) or lesser developed countries in the region.
Dr. Hilaire has been a staunch advocate on matters of foreign trade and Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), and most aptly in these crucial times the issue of guns entering the islands through porous and vulnerable borders.
At a recent social gathering to highlight Invest St Lucia’s 50th anniversary, the minister called on the foreign powers to do more within their reach to assist smaller islands leverage the standards, regulations, and negotiations necessary to function effectively in an open and competitive global market.
Hilaire pointed out the past perils that befell the banana industry, due to revised trading compliances effected by the foreign countries and the removal of certain concessions that were previously afforded to these smaller states.
He spoke of the disparity involved in granting incentives to local business enterprises seeking to carve out prospective investment projects, in contrast to the ‘grander largesse’ given to foreign investors.
Hilaire called on the foreign powers to be more sensitive to the plight of the small island states and provide the avenue conducive to creating equitable options to enhance their socio-economic base.
The minister has also taken umbrage with the proliferation of guns into Saint Lucia and the wider region, which he cites, as a major problem and an infringement on the social security and stability in these smaller islands.
Hilaire notes that the proliferation of guns and illegal weapons into the country is a major cause of the escalating gun violence permeating through the country.
He contended that since small developing states, like Saint Lucia do not manufacture guns, then the onus is on the foreign countries with their gun manufacturers to handle the matter.
He proposed more funds be diverted to implementing social programmes that can help mitigate these issues; or supply law enforcement officers with the requisite resources and tools needed to launch a ‘frontal attack’ directed towards the ‘war on crime’.
The minister also took into account the porous nature of the country’s borders. He declared that criminal elements are using more sophisticated ways to conduct their illegal activities and pose a major threat to law enforcement authorities with their inter-woven networks.
He adds that this is not an isolated incident, since this matter has been plaguing the region for years and the other countries too are also affected by the gun trafficking issue.
Hilaire stressed that while government has put in social intervention programmes to help deal with the matter, it is imperative that the authorities pursue a very “activist international effort” to hold the people responsible for manufacturing guns to address the situation.
He contends that the foreign countries possess more advanced technologies and capabilities and with their national security networks in place, are better positioned to deal with these issues.
This brings into focus the wider functions of CARICOM, and the important role that the corresponding agencies have to play in addressing critical issues, such as shipping, trading and national security.
From times gone by, freedom fighters from the region had fought gallantly and bravely to free its people from colonial deprivation, exploitation and indoctrination.
Caribbean history is replete with the heroism exemplified by freedom fighters, from as far north as Haiti – with the likes of Toussaint L’Ouverture, Henry Christophe and others; to Paul Bogle and company who marched for justice and fair treatment for all the people in Jamaica ; Che Guevara and Fidel Castro standing up to the might of the US forces; and even in more recent times the struggle taken on by Walter Rodney , a reputed Guyanese historian, political activist and academic, whose notable works include : How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972). And notably, the input of Bob Marley, who revolutionized the ‘protest in song’ mantra portrayed through Reggae music, and liberation of the Rastafarian movement with a voice calling out for the masses for justice and freedom.
There are many other heroes or freedom fighters that have graced these regional lands and their names too, will go down in Caribbean history for taking on the plight of the common people.
At this juncture, towards the region’s overall development and pursuits it is imperative that the Caricom leadership takes on a ‘United and National Front’ to help rid the territories of this incessant malfeasance that has plagued its shores for far too long.