Categorized | Features, Local, News

Montserrat: The case of its two National Songs

By Claude Gerald

Edgecombe won the contest for the National Song, then

Edgecombe won the contest for the National Song, then

It is weirdly unique but factual.

Montserrat has selected two national songs at the same stage of ripening. Only that one has little more traction momentarily.

Nature and its biological laws would be hard pressed to replicate this man-made intriguing scenario.

To contemplate this, as a national and a supporter of development through people, it takes the mind down a path of confusion and embarrassment, to be lost in the analysis that such conundrum brings.

In the early nineties there was a political drive to give distinction to certain assets in keeping with our growth as a developing nation.  Reuben Meade, current Premier, headed a new Government and supported the concept. Dr. Howard Fergus, then UWI’s Resident tutor energetically represented that notion, exemplified in the naming of Bramble Airport, to honour our first Chief Minister, W.H. Bramble who had laid impregnable cornerstones for our development. It was just the beginning of a movement of which one can only guesstimate the extent of growth that might have been fashioned from this germ of an idea.

Symbols are the uniform that highlight and give credence to a people emerging from a colonial past.

No surprise therefore when a contest was formulated to select a national song. Musicians and writers began to jostle to put their artistry in top gear in producing work symbolic of our history and aspirations.

A national song is powerfully appealing and engages every organ of the body, touching sublimely the soul of the singer and the listener. It is a signature statement of who we have become.

Denzil Edgecombe’s “Montserrat: My Country” competed with Dr. Fergus’s “Motherland”, co-written by the cultural virtuoso of his generation, Professor George Irish and emerged as the chosen song of national significance all through the volcanic period to the present.  There may have been dissenting voices but no visible and open rebellion to its choice of song. Significantly Dr. Fergus had graciously congratulated his winning rival and publicly proclaimed Montserrat My Country when the occasion arose in the ensuing years.

Montserrat My Country was used variously when needed, acknowledged and promoted as the national song by officialdom through the many changes of government that were realized since its initial acclamation. Some schools have learned and sang it melodiously, rising to attention and giving the requisite honour that symbolizes this signature characteristic of our evolution.

In keeping with the shifting national priorities that emerged since the historic July 1995 eruption of Mount Soufriere volcano, legislative progress on sealing Montserrat My Country’s entitlement was put on hold. The legislature never tabled it, as it seeks to do now to an imposter song, that gained competitive legs when once again, this Reuben Meade led government, initiated the launching of a new national song in 2013.

This new competition went nation-wide and beyond in the Dispora, to encourage public participation and voting.

Sir Howard Fergus entered his 1995 piece once more. Denzil Edgecombe, responding to the proposition that Montserrat My Country was incomplete, requested clarification, which never came.

Sir Howard’s entry prevailed this time and legislative approval is being hurriedly sought to concretize the song’s elevation, shortly after its winning the competition.

There is tangible evidence of recognition of “Montserrat: My country as the national song in many quarters even internationally.

Edgecombe engaged the Premier in several unanswered letters seeking clarification on the issue since 2011 when first mooted. The Premier’s silence was deafening and when challenged by the media for an explanation, he fired that the process had never been legitimized through the legislature as would be done with a new search.

He advised anyone who is not pleased with what he is doing to resort to the court. He mentioned that the Editor of the Reporter had famously challenged his 2009 nomination in the election, implicitly gloating over the Editor’s failed attempt, which had to do only with filing a document in specified time. Recognizing that the court is the final arbiter of such matters in administering breaches of law governing the state and its citizens, Mr. Meade is inviting a judicial review of his actions. It must be made crystal to him that unlike the technicality (EC$300 bond that was not paid in time) which prevented the hearing and full exposure of the facts in 2009, that enlivened and secured his Premiership that litigants are more wise four years ahead.

Judges have real power to make the law. Society expects them to be bold. It was far more important to the growth of the law and the political interest of citizens to hear the case rather than living the black letter of an antiquated 60 year old law. This is the equivalent of a dumb executive arm of government.

Premier Meade in his arrogance may well be missing something of key importance. He may be well advised to engage legal counsel in his arrogance to assess his chances in case a legal rebut mounts from offended parties.  If this is the way he continues to practice his politics, immorally if not illegally in transgression, trampling contemptuously on the rights of citizens, he will have to reckon with the people, whose desire for accountability he so often callously frowns on.

Mr. Meade’s attitude can precipitate a regime of tyranny in its worst forms. When leadership sets that pace, followers bent on self preservation, become empowered to blot out reason and spread anarchy in forms that can escalate over time. It is the atmosphere in which Satanism thrives comfortably.

The saving grace of our constitution is that the rule of law still exists as a buffer against the powerfully powerful. Lady Chief Justice of the OECS Bar at the start of the law year highlighted the rule of law as a corner stone of justice. Decaying justice would be, she should have argued, if this important theoretical concept is not buttressed by men and women of integrity especially at the judgeship levels as the CCJ’s Sir Dennis Byron rendered to UWI, Jamaica students last year.

Nonetheless the rule of law aims to give the citizens the right and indeed the assurance that those bent on propagating tyranny, even at the level below physical abuse, will be made to account for their actions when they cross the boundary into gross indecency.

Civil liberties will be at stake when citizens fail to challenge. Bold actions are thus seen in a broader light of public service and public good, the creation of which will redound to the preservation of a life fit to be lived.

The road map to understand where this unhealthy situation goes is unclear. It is predictable that we have not seen the end of this matter.

No matter how and where it goes one thing is certain: This awkward issue will tarnish legacies for good.

Claude Gerald is a social commentator who lives and enjoys life on Montserrat. Ceegee15@hotmail.com

See also: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/there-is-a-national-song/

 

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By Claude Gerald

Edgecombe won the contest for the National Song, then

Edgecombe won the contest for the National Song, then

It is weirdly unique but factual.

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Montserrat has selected two national songs at the same stage of ripening. Only that one has little more traction momentarily.

Nature and its biological laws would be hard pressed to replicate this man-made intriguing scenario.

To contemplate this, as a national and a supporter of development through people, it takes the mind down a path of confusion and embarrassment, to be lost in the analysis that such conundrum brings.

In the early nineties there was a political drive to give distinction to certain assets in keeping with our growth as a developing nation.  Reuben Meade, current Premier, headed a new Government and supported the concept. Dr. Howard Fergus, then UWI’s Resident tutor energetically represented that notion, exemplified in the naming of Bramble Airport, to honour our first Chief Minister, W.H. Bramble who had laid impregnable cornerstones for our development. It was just the beginning of a movement of which one can only guesstimate the extent of growth that might have been fashioned from this germ of an idea.

Symbols are the uniform that highlight and give credence to a people emerging from a colonial past.

No surprise therefore when a contest was formulated to select a national song. Musicians and writers began to jostle to put their artistry in top gear in producing work symbolic of our history and aspirations.

A national song is powerfully appealing and engages every organ of the body, touching sublimely the soul of the singer and the listener. It is a signature statement of who we have become.

Denzil Edgecombe’s “Montserrat: My Country” competed with Dr. Fergus’s “Motherland”, co-written by the cultural virtuoso of his generation, Professor George Irish and emerged as the chosen song of national significance all through the volcanic period to the present.  There may have been dissenting voices but no visible and open rebellion to its choice of song. Significantly Dr. Fergus had graciously congratulated his winning rival and publicly proclaimed Montserrat My Country when the occasion arose in the ensuing years.

Montserrat My Country was used variously when needed, acknowledged and promoted as the national song by officialdom through the many changes of government that were realized since its initial acclamation. Some schools have learned and sang it melodiously, rising to attention and giving the requisite honour that symbolizes this signature characteristic of our evolution.

In keeping with the shifting national priorities that emerged since the historic July 1995 eruption of Mount Soufriere volcano, legislative progress on sealing Montserrat My Country’s entitlement was put on hold. The legislature never tabled it, as it seeks to do now to an imposter song, that gained competitive legs when once again, this Reuben Meade led government, initiated the launching of a new national song in 2013.

This new competition went nation-wide and beyond in the Dispora, to encourage public participation and voting.

Sir Howard Fergus entered his 1995 piece once more. Denzil Edgecombe, responding to the proposition that Montserrat My Country was incomplete, requested clarification, which never came.

Sir Howard’s entry prevailed this time and legislative approval is being hurriedly sought to concretize the song’s elevation, shortly after its winning the competition.

There is tangible evidence of recognition of “Montserrat: My country as the national song in many quarters even internationally.

Edgecombe engaged the Premier in several unanswered letters seeking clarification on the issue since 2011 when first mooted. The Premier’s silence was deafening and when challenged by the media for an explanation, he fired that the process had never been legitimized through the legislature as would be done with a new search.

He advised anyone who is not pleased with what he is doing to resort to the court. He mentioned that the Editor of the Reporter had famously challenged his 2009 nomination in the election, implicitly gloating over the Editor’s failed attempt, which had to do only with filing a document in specified time. Recognizing that the court is the final arbiter of such matters in administering breaches of law governing the state and its citizens, Mr. Meade is inviting a judicial review of his actions. It must be made crystal to him that unlike the technicality (EC$300 bond that was not paid in time) which prevented the hearing and full exposure of the facts in 2009, that enlivened and secured his Premiership that litigants are more wise four years ahead.

Judges have real power to make the law. Society expects them to be bold. It was far more important to the growth of the law and the political interest of citizens to hear the case rather than living the black letter of an antiquated 60 year old law. This is the equivalent of a dumb executive arm of government.

Premier Meade in his arrogance may well be missing something of key importance. He may be well advised to engage legal counsel in his arrogance to assess his chances in case a legal rebut mounts from offended parties.  If this is the way he continues to practice his politics, immorally if not illegally in transgression, trampling contemptuously on the rights of citizens, he will have to reckon with the people, whose desire for accountability he so often callously frowns on.

Mr. Meade’s attitude can precipitate a regime of tyranny in its worst forms. When leadership sets that pace, followers bent on self preservation, become empowered to blot out reason and spread anarchy in forms that can escalate over time. It is the atmosphere in which Satanism thrives comfortably.

The saving grace of our constitution is that the rule of law still exists as a buffer against the powerfully powerful. Lady Chief Justice of the OECS Bar at the start of the law year highlighted the rule of law as a corner stone of justice. Decaying justice would be, she should have argued, if this important theoretical concept is not buttressed by men and women of integrity especially at the judgeship levels as the CCJ’s Sir Dennis Byron rendered to UWI, Jamaica students last year.

Nonetheless the rule of law aims to give the citizens the right and indeed the assurance that those bent on propagating tyranny, even at the level below physical abuse, will be made to account for their actions when they cross the boundary into gross indecency.

Civil liberties will be at stake when citizens fail to challenge. Bold actions are thus seen in a broader light of public service and public good, the creation of which will redound to the preservation of a life fit to be lived.

The road map to understand where this unhealthy situation goes is unclear. It is predictable that we have not seen the end of this matter.

No matter how and where it goes one thing is certain: This awkward issue will tarnish legacies for good.

Claude Gerald is a social commentator who lives and enjoys life on Montserrat. Ceegee15@hotmail.com

See also: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/there-is-a-national-song/