Letters & Opinion

Emancipation Day: Government Enkindles the Consciousness of Its People

Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E
By Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E

THE slave trade and slavery are historical events that Africans or people of African descent should always remember. And by the elaborate celebration of Emancipation Day, government is arousing their interest in that phenomenon.

The transfer of Africans from the west coast of that continent and their passage/relocation to the West Indies and the Americas in abhor conditions, was indeed, a very cruel act. And even worse, the enslavement of our decedents in those territories was a real calamity.

Those of us who are fortunate to have read the history of the West Indies and know fully well and understand the experience of our forefathers in bondage will appreciate the efforts of our government in bringing relief to our St. Lucian people.

As I write, I’m hearing from the Government Information Service (GIS) that government has set up a special committee to address the problems of our St. Lucian people who are unhoused, unsheltered and homeless in our country. Indeed, this is a bold step in the right direction. In fact, I would admit, is a very proactive effort in bringing relief to our brothers and sisters in our nation.

I also heard, from the same source, that government is setting up the machinery to provide psychological support to women, boys and men in St. Lucia. Now, I can tell you that I have lived in the United States of America, and can tell you that psychological support for families is a well-established programme in that country.

The essence of emancipation is the freedom given of our forefathers. It means that they were no longer subservient to their ‘masters’.

Now it is not my intention to give a history lesson here, but it is important to identify some pertinent issues which are critical to the freedom of our forefathers, and, by extension, our surviving descendants.

On August 1,1834, Britain passed the Slavery Abolition Act, outlawing the owning, buying and selling f humans as property throughout its colonies around the world.

Now you know, when things are nice, it is not easy to let go of the niceties! The Abolition Act of August,1833 in Britain, which actually took effect on 1st August, 1834 did not free our enslaved brothers and sisters from slavery in the United States of America. It took President Abraham Lincoln almost 29 years to issue an Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, that declared that our forefathers held as slaved shall be free. And it was as a direct result of fierce rebellion of our brothers and sisters in the various states that “Forced the hands” of President Abraham Lincoln. Indeed, a true example of ‘people power’.

Now, for the past two years the government of St. Lucia has been making strenuous efforts at bringing some meaningful activities on Emancipation Day, August 1, and for the rest of the month. Very recently I saw a mural depicting freedom of our forefathers on one of the CDC buildings around the food market.

If that is not ‘Putting people first’, then what is? The Government of St. Lucia is making an extraordinary effort at attending to the needs of the people of St. Lucia. Note well that I didn’t say the supporters of the St. Lucia labour party. I said ‘… the people of St. Lucia.’

The following are a few recent activities which have been designed to bring true emancipation to our people:

The Golden 80 Plus Health Care Package for our seniors. Persons who are 80 years and over are now eligible to receive prescription drugs at the Community Wellness Centre Pharmacies without having to pay for that service.

Those persons can now have annual hearing test at the Entrepot Wellness Centre in Castries, and the Vieux Fort Wellness Centre.

Those Super Seniors now have access to eye screening and surgery at the Cuban Eye Clinic at the Victoria Hospital.

Another is the transformation of the Victoria Hospital as an Urban Polyclinic. The hospital will focus on three main services; Primary Health Care, Urgent Care and Secondary Care.

Still another, is the Pre-natal or Antenatal Care for pregnant women which is intended to arrest the decline in the birth rate in St. Lucia.

Still another is the St. Lucia Tourism Awards-The Gimies. The programme which is currently being implemented by the Ministry of Tourism, is intended to reward outstanding performers in the tourist industry.

There is also relief in the education sector. Thousands of laptops and other electronic devices are being made available to all secondary school students.

A $500 bursary for each student entering Secondary School to assist parents with providing school supplies to their children.

The government of St. Lucia will make payments of Mathematics and English for all students writing the CSEC Examination.

Then facilities fees will be paid for all students attending schools in St. Lucia. It means then that both parents and schools will benefit from that payment.

Now as a classroom teacher for almost three decades, I can tell you that teachers used a lot of pocket money to buy materials to prepare lessons for their students. The government had begun to give teachers $600 to be used to buy materials to make teaching aids. That amount has been increased to $1,100.

The government will continue to pursue scholarships to tertiary level education institutions.

Indeed, the intention of government is to emancipate the people from social and economic slavery.

Our forefathers were not given these services during the time they were enslaved.

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