Here’s to a happy and reflective fortieth Independence Day

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King Solo declares in his classic, HISTORIC OCCASION, that “Independence time is on my mind / We go dance freedom song, we go dance to folk song / With joy in our hearts and hope in our breasts . . . .”. He is capturing, quite nicely, the tenor and temper of this time, our fortieth anniversary of Independence. We are grateful for that which we have achieved thus far, and we are determined to move the ball even further along in that quest for a betterment here in Antigua and Barbuda, fulfilling the dream of our ancestors. We can say like the scriptures, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us!” Give thanks!

Of course, notwithstanding the euphoria, the feel-good moments, the fluttering flags, the anthem, the ceremonial parades and the bunting, we are keenly aware that our Independence is not complete. There is work to be done yet. Let us disabuse ourselves of the notion that we have arrived. We took a baby step on November 1, 1981, and it is incumbent on us that we “forward as one,” to true and full Independence.

In that regard, we can look to our brothers and sisters in Barbados who will be formally severing all ties with the British monarchy shortly. No more Queen as head of State! That role will now be filled by a Barbadian, in accordance with the wishes of the Barbadian people. According to the Bajan Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, “The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind . . .This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving.” Indeed! Would to the high heavens that we follow quickly in the footsteps of the Bajans. As Prime Minister Errol Barrow of Barbados declared on its attainment of Independence in 1966, we ought not to linger on colonial premises. Cut the umbilical cord!

Severing ties with the Privy Council and embracing the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as our apex court is also another critical step in our growth and maturity as a nation. A pox on the self doubt, and the misguided fears, and the distrust, and the inferiority complexes! Hopefully, sooner rather than later, we will have another referendum, and we will meet the threshold that will make the change to the CCJ a reality.

Meanwhile, even as we unshackle ourselves from Britain, let us be ever mindful of those great world powers that would fain bind us to them in subtler, but equally damaging ways. We’re talking the neo-colonialists. Their methods are not as brutish as the colonialists of yore, but the results of their engagement can be quite damaging – indebtedness, deprivation, environmental damage, and so on and so forth. These neo-colonialists are flush with cash, which they are not bashful about throwing around.  But there could be a heavy price to be paid, if the ‘new colonies’ do not tread gingerly in their fraternising with their new neo-colonial best friends.

And talking about ‘treading gingerly,’ and guarding our Independence zealously. It was rather disconcerting to hear the flippant way in which our PM dismissed concerns about Chinese machinations in many countries around the world, including ours, with words to the effect that he is not concerned about grandiose Chinese designs on our country, as long as the Chinese keep the money flowing to our coffers. Say what! This, from the PM of a country just emerging from four hundred years of a hellish colonialism! This, from the PM of a country still suffering indebtedness, underdevelopment, health problems, psychological problems and so on and so forth, as a result of colonialism. While the PM’s remark, on the face of it, was quite unserious, it certainly calls into question the state of his thinking – that he is willing to make Antigua and Barbuda an open sesame for the right price. See Global Ports Holding, the Western Imperial Special Economic Zone (WISEZ) and YIDA. These are all egregious examples of our country giving up sovereignty, revenue and control to these entities, in exchange for so very little, especially from the latter two. We are still shaking our heads at how a leader, supposedly so very clever and brilliant, and supposedly possessed of a sharp financial acumen, could give up so much for “thirty measly pieces of silver.”  Sigh!

Clearly, “If we think the battle is done then we are riding an illusion . . . We have no hold on this our native island / Our hands are tied, we don’t control our actions / Come leh we forward together in a social endeavor / Our goal, social control; we’ll slave no more, we’ll stoop no more / Only then we’ll slave no more!”  [King Short Shirt, ILLUSION]. May we be guided accordingly on this fortieth anniversary of Independence. May we be inspired!

We here at NEWSCO certainly wish all Antiguans and Barbudans a happy and reflective, Independence Day, 2021. May the Almighty ever bless us all!

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