Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 4:2017-Healing the land, 3 – the ghost in the room

We need to face our past, to have a sounder basis for aid, trade and development

BRADES, Montserrat, Feb 2, 2017 – One of new UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s strategic moves has been to place Ms Priti Patel in charge of DfID. (She is a UK-born Gujarati Tory politician whose family apparently left Uganda just before Asians were expelled by Idi Amin.)   This development is highly significant for Montserrat, not least as the UK Independent reported on July 14, 2016[1] that:

“In 2013 Ms Patel said: ‘A long-term strategic assessment is required, including the consideration to replace DfID with a Department for International Trade and Development in order to enable the UK to focus on enhancing trade with the developing world and seek out new investment opportunities in the global race. It is possible to bring more prosperity to the developing world and enable greater wealth transfers to be made from the UK by fostering greater trade and private sector investment opportunities.’”

Now, the Independent does go on to say that “May has in fact created a new Department for International Trade, which takes on some responsibilities from the department for Business, Innovation, and Skill – which is now abolished. ” 

However, all of us  need to reflect soberly on a shocking, mutually painful fact from our foundational history. 

It is time to face the ghost that hovers overhead and haunts us all. Yes, not just us displaced Africans and Asians here in Montserrat and across the wider Caribbean, but also DfID’s Officers here and in East Kilbride, the senior civil servants in Whitehall, the UK Cabinet and its Ministers, Journalists and Editors. (Note to Editors of the Daily Mail and Sun: you, especially – as, what you just said about the £4.9 million fibre optics cable for Montserrat was disgraceful and is utterly without excuse.)

If we are ever to exorcise the demon from our painful past and move on to a worthwhile future, we have to face it. It cannot be left any longer as the silent ghost in the room, unmentioned but forever tainting the atmosphere. So, pardon the pain we are about to go through together.

For, it is an undeniable historical truth that our slavery- and- colonialism- driven Caribbean past was in fact founded on trade and private investment.  Namely, the notorious triangular trade carried out on British ships, under the British flag and as regulated by the Navigation Acts:

[a]  trinkets, cloth and the like – often, manufactured under abusive conditions in C18 factories in Britain – from the UK to Africa;

[b] kidnapped slaves trafficked from Africa to the West Indies, kept in irons on disgracefully over-crowded ships;

[c] sugar, molasses and rum extracted from the sweat, tears and blood of slaves then being exported from our islands to the UK, 

. . . all to the tremendous profit of the Merchants, Manufacturers, Captains and Planters as well as their financial backers in London. (Indeed, Trinidad historian and Prime Minister, the late Eric Williams’ key work, Capitalism and Slavery, is again a painful must-read.[2])

Let us never, ever forget what unchecked greed can do:

(And, let us thank God for the abolitionists, such as Wilberforce and Montserrat’s own manumitted slave Olaudah Equiano, who exposed the ugly truth and stood up for reform.) 

Clearly, history is teaching that we cannot simply wave a magic wand and call out “trade, investment and profits” to solve the Caribbean’s development dilemmas; or those of the wider South. The specific kind of trade, how it is developed, quality of governance and regulation, how corruption is kept in check, how the economy is transformed, how capacity and bargaining power of workers are built up, how inclusive the resulting growth is, and more are all pivotal issues. Issues of sustainability, tied to good governance concerns and to capacity challenges and onward to the ghost of our slave and colonial past. The demon we must all face together if we are ever to successfully exorcise it.

Happily, just by reading this, we have taken the first step: facing the painful truth together.

Next, let us focus on Montserrat’s case from 1995 on, as we address the challenge of post-volcano disaster rebuilding and redevelopment.  DfID itself has long since identified that we need a good sea port and capital town as a focus for redevelopment, as access is the number one constraint on the economy. Yes, several other key projects such as the fibre optic cable, geothermal electricity and the like will make a difference, but unless access and a centre to build an economy around are resolved, we cannot go anywhere. This has been long known, it is there in consultant study after consultant study. It is in policy documents, proposals, business cases and more. And yet, twenty years later, we are still stuck on stop-start, stop, delay, restart, stop again.

Yes, we need to have a proper development partnership Memorandum of Understanding with HMG. Yes, we need a charter of good governance that will guide radical – and yes they must be radical – reforms of governance and financial management, and more. Yes, we need to face the “failure” of MDC and the cloud of questions that have been raised after whistle-blowers have cried out. Yes, we need to build capacity, and we need world class technical cooperation officers in the meanwhile. We need to deal with the spirits of envy, selfish ambition, hypocritical slander, finger-pointing blame games and back-stabbing betrayal.

But until we mutually decide that we will come together through the indissoluble bonds of 300 years of sometimes painful history and do what it takes to move forward, words on paper will not even be worth the paper they are printed on.

[1]          http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/new-international-development-secretary-priti-patel-called-for-department-for-international-a7137331.html

[2]          https://www.amazon.com/Capitalism-Slavery-Eric-Williams/dp/0807844888/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486069739&sr=8-1&keywords=Capitalism+and+Slavery

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

We need to face our past, to have a sounder basis for aid, trade and development

BRADES, Montserrat, Feb 2, 2017 – One of new UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s strategic moves has been to place Ms Priti Patel in charge of DfID. (She is a UK-born Gujarati Tory politician whose family apparently left Uganda just before Asians were expelled by Idi Amin.)   This development is highly significant for Montserrat, not least as the UK Independent reported on July 14, 2016[1] that:

“In 2013 Ms Patel said: ‘A long-term strategic assessment is required, including the consideration to replace DfID with a Department for International Trade and Development in order to enable the UK to focus on enhancing trade with the developing world and seek out new investment opportunities in the global race. It is possible to bring more prosperity to the developing world and enable greater wealth transfers to be made from the UK by fostering greater trade and private sector investment opportunities.’”

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Now, the Independent does go on to say that “May has in fact created a new Department for International Trade, which takes on some responsibilities from the department for Business, Innovation, and Skill – which is now abolished. ” 

However, all of us  need to reflect soberly on a shocking, mutually painful fact from our foundational history. 

It is time to face the ghost that hovers overhead and haunts us all. Yes, not just us displaced Africans and Asians here in Montserrat and across the wider Caribbean, but also DfID’s Officers here and in East Kilbride, the senior civil servants in Whitehall, the UK Cabinet and its Ministers, Journalists and Editors. (Note to Editors of the Daily Mail and Sun: you, especially – as, what you just said about the £4.9 million fibre optics cable for Montserrat was disgraceful and is utterly without excuse.)

If we are ever to exorcise the demon from our painful past and move on to a worthwhile future, we have to face it. It cannot be left any longer as the silent ghost in the room, unmentioned but forever tainting the atmosphere. So, pardon the pain we are about to go through together.

For, it is an undeniable historical truth that our slavery- and- colonialism- driven Caribbean past was in fact founded on trade and private investment.  Namely, the notorious triangular trade carried out on British ships, under the British flag and as regulated by the Navigation Acts:

[a]  trinkets, cloth and the like – often, manufactured under abusive conditions in C18 factories in Britain – from the UK to Africa;

[b] kidnapped slaves trafficked from Africa to the West Indies, kept in irons on disgracefully over-crowded ships;

[c] sugar, molasses and rum extracted from the sweat, tears and blood of slaves then being exported from our islands to the UK, 

. . . all to the tremendous profit of the Merchants, Manufacturers, Captains and Planters as well as their financial backers in London. (Indeed, Trinidad historian and Prime Minister, the late Eric Williams’ key work, Capitalism and Slavery, is again a painful must-read.[2])

Let us never, ever forget what unchecked greed can do:

(And, let us thank God for the abolitionists, such as Wilberforce and Montserrat’s own manumitted slave Olaudah Equiano, who exposed the ugly truth and stood up for reform.) 

Clearly, history is teaching that we cannot simply wave a magic wand and call out “trade, investment and profits” to solve the Caribbean’s development dilemmas; or those of the wider South. The specific kind of trade, how it is developed, quality of governance and regulation, how corruption is kept in check, how the economy is transformed, how capacity and bargaining power of workers are built up, how inclusive the resulting growth is, and more are all pivotal issues. Issues of sustainability, tied to good governance concerns and to capacity challenges and onward to the ghost of our slave and colonial past. The demon we must all face together if we are ever to successfully exorcise it.

Happily, just by reading this, we have taken the first step: facing the painful truth together.

Next, let us focus on Montserrat’s case from 1995 on, as we address the challenge of post-volcano disaster rebuilding and redevelopment.  DfID itself has long since identified that we need a good sea port and capital town as a focus for redevelopment, as access is the number one constraint on the economy. Yes, several other key projects such as the fibre optic cable, geothermal electricity and the like will make a difference, but unless access and a centre to build an economy around are resolved, we cannot go anywhere. This has been long known, it is there in consultant study after consultant study. It is in policy documents, proposals, business cases and more. And yet, twenty years later, we are still stuck on stop-start, stop, delay, restart, stop again.

Yes, we need to have a proper development partnership Memorandum of Understanding with HMG. Yes, we need a charter of good governance that will guide radical – and yes they must be radical – reforms of governance and financial management, and more. Yes, we need to face the “failure” of MDC and the cloud of questions that have been raised after whistle-blowers have cried out. Yes, we need to build capacity, and we need world class technical cooperation officers in the meanwhile. We need to deal with the spirits of envy, selfish ambition, hypocritical slander, finger-pointing blame games and back-stabbing betrayal.

But until we mutually decide that we will come together through the indissoluble bonds of 300 years of sometimes painful history and do what it takes to move forward, words on paper will not even be worth the paper they are printed on.

[1]          http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/new-international-development-secretary-priti-patel-called-for-department-for-international-a7137331.html

[2]          https://www.amazon.com/Capitalism-Slavery-Eric-Williams/dp/0807844888/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486069739&sr=8-1&keywords=Capitalism+and+Slavery