Letters & Opinion

Saint Lucia’s 45-year Independence Journey – Fraught with Highs and Lows

By Reginald Andrew

While it is amazing to observe the level of patriotism exhibited by Saint Lucians, from all walks of life, towards  the country in its 45th year of independence journey -it is rather disconcerting to note the blatant disrespect and shallow callousness exhibited by some unruly people.

In the midst of this celebratory mood, these young thugs show no regard for nationalism or  contribute anything relevant to the progress of the country, as they slide downward  on a path of doom and destruction.

Over the course of 45 years since Saint Lucia attained its Independence, there have been quite a few achievements made by the people both individually, and as teams and groups.

Technocrats, corporate personalities, academics, entertainers, athletes, public servants, government ministers and officials, construction employees, fisherfolk, farmers, vendors and hustlers, and other workers too at some point or the other have been in the spotlight – and/or have performed a feat that puts the country in the spotlight, as well.

It is quite noticeable that over the years, ‘Lucians’ have in some way demonstrated a greater sense of consciousness and appreciation for the landmark celebrations that define this sub-regional state, affectionately known as ‘Fair Helen’.

And the Independence Anniversary celebrations tops the list of events in the calendar year. From way back, there has been a concerted effort to decentralise the activities and make it a more holistic and community- friendly event.

The ‘hallmark’ of the Independence celebrations came through for the 40th anniversary year (2019), when the activities were taken up quite a few notches; with the flotillas, stage shows, plays, dances, live street shows and other events in the mix- it was a wonderful and joyful time to behold.

Since then, the Independence activities have  add more events  each year, in an effort to forge  bonds within the communities, integrate more locals into participating and invoke a greater sense of awareness and appreciation of country.

Hail to the ‘land of our birth’ in the “Fairest Isle of all the Earth”, where “Justice, Truth and Charity our ideals forever be.”

But more and more lately, Fair Helen has been losing its sons, and especially the younger ones at that, through the influence of gun violence and other ghastly acts with dangerous weapons engrossed by the lure of gangs and gang warfare.

It’s a ‘badness culture’ that the young ones are now promoting with no regard for who is affected – they are out to get their prey (opponent – rival- enemy) by any means and nothing has to stop in their way.

And it quite bold and brazen how these young thugs operate. Take for instance, just recently, in mid-afternoon between 3 and 4: 00p.m in the city of Castries, ‘downtown’ along the William Peter Boulevard, in plain view of the public, a gang of about seven young teenagers, with one or two with machetes drawn from their waist chasing a young man across the streets onto the next side of the road. Fortunately, the young man found protection  in the form of two city police officers on the beat in the city centre. Then the pack of young thugs coolly turn around and without much fuss made their way out of the boulevard to some other location, the cops having no time to confront or apprehend the perpetrators.

And this is a recurring situation that has gripped the nation over the past months. In one of the latest incidents, the principal of a Primary School in the city, bitterly and emotionally describes the harrowing act that unfolded one afternoon as a gang of young thugs chased and injured a student, who had to flee to the safety of an adjoining school compound to evade his assailants.

These young men have descended to such lows in a pivotal moment of their lives, however, with the right mindset, drive and persistence there is an opportunity to accomplish something meaningful and worthwhile in this journey of life.

Yet, albeit the onus for these young men is gravitating towards the gangs, their latest slogans, titles, trends and the recognition derived from this reckless and uncaring ‘badness behaviour’.

Times are changing. These are perilous times. the authorities, law enforcement officers, spiritual leaders, concerned citizens, groups and other social activists are all rallying together to try and find ways and means to deal with and eradicate this malaise.

In the wider context, this behaviour pattern has been spreading over the region like wildfire, and little Saint Lucia in its ‘neck of the woods’ seeking to bring about an equitable social life for its people-have unfortunately been caught in the ‘web of destruction’ with its young thugs wild and free and out for trouble.

There was a time, when elder folks in the respective communities had a voice and were respected for their humanitarian works and other philanthropic endeavours.

The likes of the late James Belgrave, Father John and Augustin “Tortie” Glasgow- mentorship to youngsters, Mr. Lousy and the Family Planning crew attending to young females, “Srubb” Wellington, and Francis “Shining” Emmanuel with steelpan tutelage to young players, the late Petronilla Deterville and the work she did with the Cecilian Rays and the wider Anse La Raye community, and a host of other persons- whom are sometimes referred to as ‘Unsung Heroes’  directed their time and passion towards nurturing delinquent young men and women.

It is now the digital age and we live in an era of technology, with its modern devices and the works to keep people informed and immersed in a global environment.

Nonetheless, the ‘community spirit’ that existed was able to invoke a sense of goodwill, cheer and comfort to its people- and there was more manners and respect, and appreciation for the elders and what they have accomplished.

From the sugar plantations at Roseau, and later the Banana farms, the coal carriers working late into the night on the Castries wharf, they all worked tirelessly to bring this country to where it stands today.

The village nurses, teachers, police officers, firemen, religious groups and other concerned citizens all played a part in moulding the community – and were sometimes ever present to lure a ‘young soul’ away from the perils of destruction and misery. Parents and guardians, and even some ‘troubled souls’ were more open to confide in these persons with their vast knowledge and wealth of experience in dealing with domestic and social matters.

This time is no more –and the young thugs behave in a manner that life began yesterday, and come what may, they will have the last say.

But, this is not the case and does not have to be so. Do we take time to reflect on the journey that this country has been through – these people toiled through sun and rain to provide for their families and to put a roof over their heads, clothe them and put food on the table, and even afford to send them to school and gain an education to better their lot for the future.

Will we allow all this hard work and toil to go to waste, blinded by the glare and thrills of modernization and globalization?

No Sir. Like the reggae artist says: Its time to go back to your roots-and dig down deep into the reserves of your mind and your heart and soul to conjure up the passion, fortitude and resilience to fight off this monster from within that is perched on a reckless course to perdition.

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