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Thursday, 27 January, 2022
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EDITORIAL: One love

Recently, we wrote of the creep of xenophobia into our bit of paradise. We noted that it reflected a trend that is occurring world-wide and that it was a departure from our proud history of being at the forefront of Caribbean integration and unity, as well as, being a melting pot for the Caribbean.
We referred to the “us versus them” mentality that is growing and being fostered by politicians in an effort to gain some sort of political advantage.  This is truly a sad turn of events and one that we should bring to an abrupt end.
The momentary gain on the political front does not offset the long-term damage done to our peaceful society. 
We need only look at our neighbours to the north, the United States of America (USA) or any number of European countries to see clear examples of how the rise of xenophobia has caused huge rifts in communities.  The racial tensions across the globe are driven by a perception that countries and cultures are being lost to ‘foreigners’ and the ‘natives’ must take back their ‘land’ from the ‘invaders’.  Ironic, because in many cases, and especially true in the United States, the nowadays ‘natives’ are yesterday’s ‘invaders’ who took the ‘land’ from the indigenous people.
At home, we have a different history and we have always demonstrated our welcoming side more than our intolerant side.  With varying degrees of ease, Caribbean people have travelled the region and lived in relative peace and harmony.  Just about everyone has family scattered across the region and we often marvel at how small the Caribbean is when we exchange stories with complete strangers. The popular phrase, “six degrees of separation” certainly fits our small bit of the world.
It is, therefore, a bit distressing that the recent news that a non-Antiguan was selected to head the National Cultural Policy project is a topic of such heated conversation, especially when we consider the fact that the selected applicant is a Caribbean woman from a Caribbean firm.  We do not even need to consider the fact that the project is funded by outside agencies which managed the selection process. 
Before we go too far, let’s examine how we got here, and a good place to start is the notice that was advertised for the position back in early July 2017.  It is worth noting that it was placed in The Daily Observer, and online at the CDB website, the government website www.ab.gov.ag and devbusiness.com (“the official United Nations website for consulting, contracting and export opportunities worldwide.”)  The notice read, “The Government of Antigua and Barbuda in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is inviting “Expressions of Interest” from qualified persons for the Cultural Policy Consultancy funded under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF)”.
It also specifically stated that “Consultants from Antigua & Barbuda and other member countries of the CDB, as well as EU Member Countries … and other countries which are eligible under EU procurement provisions, will be eligible to participate in these (sic) procurement opportunity.”
To cut a long story short, there were 11 submissions (including one or more from Antigua) which were evaluated on experience and qualifications.  Out of that selection process, Lisa Callender of Protrade Consultancy, a firm in Jamaica, was appointed to head the newly created National Cultural Policy project.  To be clear, Antiguans & Barbudans will still be in charge of collating and writing our policy, but Callender and her firm were appointed by the funding partners to be the project coordinators, after the evaluation exercise by a special committee.
Would we have preferred if a local team was chosen?  Absolutely.  But, the reality is, the selection committee and the funding partners decided that the local teams were not the best applicants.  In the end, it is their money being spent so they call the shots and it is not as though we ended-up with a team from some qualifying European country. 
We all share disappointment that our locals were not chosen to lead the 30-day project but can we justify the outrage at a Caribbean sister being chosen?  It is at times like this when we wonder how serious people are at achieving Caribbean integration.  All the talk of a “one Caribbean” is exposed as mere words by the xenophobic responses that we witness towards our Caribbean brothers and sisters at times.
What makes it worse is that that kind of response is not in us – it is not who we are as a people – our history proves it!  We have demonstrated love towards all of our Caribbean neighbours and we have demonstrated that we have more to unite than divide us. Unfortunately, when politics gets involved, our love is manipulated.  It turns inward, and we become defensive and seek to protect something that is not at risk. 
To conclude, we turn to Bob Marley, who was a person that all Caribbean people adopted in one way or another, and as such, is a symbol of Caribbean unity.  We need only reference the opening lines of his famous One Love/People Get Ready song, for he has summed up in just a few words what we have taken hundreds to do: “One Love! One Heart!  Let’s get together and feel all right!”  Thank you, Brother Bob! We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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