Categorized | Features, Opinions

A renewal – First call to discuss Independence

by PTV (People’s Television)

The end of the long August holiday weekend, the last long weekend until Christmas, saw people in Montserrat back at work on Tuesday.

Sunday, August 1, was Emancipation day.  Worshipers in Montserrat’s churches   again gave thanks, as they have been inclined to do for the past one hundred and seventy-six years, that they are no longer enslaved,  and  regarded as sub human creatures by the people whom they served and enriched.

In terms of celebration, emancipation from slavery   served once again, however peripherally,  as the inspiration for Cudjoe Head Day in the village where, according to oral history,  the head of a runaway slave was displayed as a warning and reminder to any others who may have considered following his example.

Additionally, in terms of constitutional advancement, emancipation day found the people of Montserrat thinking more than ever before about the deeper meaning of freedom from slavery.

Being the time of a soul searching constitutional debate, progress since the reading of the emancipation act on August 1, 1834 has become for many, a haunting preoccupation.

And faced with the irrefutable truth that Montserrat style colonialism is a direct derivative and close cousin of its administrative precursor, Government finds itself bending over backwards to interpret the draft revised constitution as an act of further liberation.

The controversy this has sparked is unfortunate.  But at this time of heightened reflection, there is no indication that it is about to end, because there are many who remain fully persuaded that, in a way of speaking, the draft revised constitution is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to modernize colonialism- the much despised administrative system   whose emergence in Montserrat and elsewhere can be directly traced to slavery.

But Chief Minister Meade, having indicated his support for the draft revised constitution in its current form, has set  about convincing the people of Montserrat that ratification of an essentially unchanged colonial power structure, represents a positive step towards self determination for Montserrat.

It has been revealed however, that the need for economic aid and Montserrat’s cash strapped condition are the real reasons why Montserrat’s official line has been to support a document which, in all likelihood,  would not be countenanced by any government in normal times.

Government’s support for the draft constitution order of May 2010 is evidently based on the perception that to do otherwise would adversely affect the flow from Britain of badly needed financial assistance. Constitutional Experts are, however, indicating a major problem with this perception; neither has Britain been comfortable with the assertion that this is the indeed the case.

It is Britain’s position that it is willing and ready to grant independence to Montserrat as soon as a majority of the island’s people express a desire to move in that direction.

Admittedly, independence is a direction that Montserrat is fearful of in its present state of need, and Chief minister Meade pointed this out in a recent discussion with journalists.

In effect then, as many people see it, simply stated, Montserrat has no real alternative but to accept its colonial status. This unfortunate situation, to the extent that it is true, is considered by some experts to be the same as having no choice at all.  And to the extent that independence is equated to freedom, they contend that an individual or community that is not free,  cannot choose not to be free.

Squarely facing this dilemma, a group of journalists have indicated to  Chief minister Meade that he has no choice at this time but to take Britain at its word and promptly enquire into how much and what forms of assistance may be available to establish Montserrat  as an independent country, similar in administrative style and stature to its OECS partners.

The problem with this, to the extent that one exists, is that full independence, having being unsold by successive administrations  as being unrealistic, has left the impression that  the colonial status quo, slightly modified, is indeed  Montserrat’s only constitutional option.

But this is not playing well in CARICOM where leaders have repeatedly and consistently called on Britain to decolonize its Caribbean Colonies. And, Montserrat as the only member of CARICOM and OECS that is governed under a colonial constitution, finds itself constantly struggling to juggle its two allegiances.

It is for this reason that on Emancipation day 2010 – it was the meaning of   freedom itself that came under scrutiny among a wide cross-section of Montserratians.  In addition, it is the length and nature of the remaining journey to this illusive state of being that is now, at this pivotal moment, mostly on the minds of many thinking people, as they strive to interpret the pros and cons of the questionable draft revised constitution.

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by PTV (People’s Television)

The end of the long August holiday weekend, the last long weekend until Christmas, saw people in Montserrat back at work on Tuesday.

Sunday, August 1, was Emancipation day.  Worshipers in Montserrat’s churches   again gave thanks, as they have been inclined to do for the past one hundred and seventy-six years, that they are no longer enslaved,  and  regarded as sub human creatures by the people whom they served and enriched.

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In terms of celebration, emancipation from slavery   served once again, however peripherally,  as the inspiration for Cudjoe Head Day in the village where, according to oral history,  the head of a runaway slave was displayed as a warning and reminder to any others who may have considered following his example.

Additionally, in terms of constitutional advancement, emancipation day found the people of Montserrat thinking more than ever before about the deeper meaning of freedom from slavery.

Being the time of a soul searching constitutional debate, progress since the reading of the emancipation act on August 1, 1834 has become for many, a haunting preoccupation.

And faced with the irrefutable truth that Montserrat style colonialism is a direct derivative and close cousin of its administrative precursor, Government finds itself bending over backwards to interpret the draft revised constitution as an act of further liberation.

The controversy this has sparked is unfortunate.  But at this time of heightened reflection, there is no indication that it is about to end, because there are many who remain fully persuaded that, in a way of speaking, the draft revised constitution is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to modernize colonialism- the much despised administrative system   whose emergence in Montserrat and elsewhere can be directly traced to slavery.

But Chief Minister Meade, having indicated his support for the draft revised constitution in its current form, has set  about convincing the people of Montserrat that ratification of an essentially unchanged colonial power structure, represents a positive step towards self determination for Montserrat.

It has been revealed however, that the need for economic aid and Montserrat’s cash strapped condition are the real reasons why Montserrat’s official line has been to support a document which, in all likelihood,  would not be countenanced by any government in normal times.

Government’s support for the draft constitution order of May 2010 is evidently based on the perception that to do otherwise would adversely affect the flow from Britain of badly needed financial assistance. Constitutional Experts are, however, indicating a major problem with this perception; neither has Britain been comfortable with the assertion that this is the indeed the case.

It is Britain’s position that it is willing and ready to grant independence to Montserrat as soon as a majority of the island’s people express a desire to move in that direction.

Admittedly, independence is a direction that Montserrat is fearful of in its present state of need, and Chief minister Meade pointed this out in a recent discussion with journalists.

In effect then, as many people see it, simply stated, Montserrat has no real alternative but to accept its colonial status. This unfortunate situation, to the extent that it is true, is considered by some experts to be the same as having no choice at all.  And to the extent that independence is equated to freedom, they contend that an individual or community that is not free,  cannot choose not to be free.

Squarely facing this dilemma, a group of journalists have indicated to  Chief minister Meade that he has no choice at this time but to take Britain at its word and promptly enquire into how much and what forms of assistance may be available to establish Montserrat  as an independent country, similar in administrative style and stature to its OECS partners.

The problem with this, to the extent that one exists, is that full independence, having being unsold by successive administrations  as being unrealistic, has left the impression that  the colonial status quo, slightly modified, is indeed  Montserrat’s only constitutional option.

But this is not playing well in CARICOM where leaders have repeatedly and consistently called on Britain to decolonize its Caribbean Colonies. And, Montserrat as the only member of CARICOM and OECS that is governed under a colonial constitution, finds itself constantly struggling to juggle its two allegiances.

It is for this reason that on Emancipation day 2010 – it was the meaning of   freedom itself that came under scrutiny among a wide cross-section of Montserratians.  In addition, it is the length and nature of the remaining journey to this illusive state of being that is now, at this pivotal moment, mostly on the minds of many thinking people, as they strive to interpret the pros and cons of the questionable draft revised constitution.