I was a teenager in Trinidad when, in 1962 on the 31 August to be precise, the country got its independence from Great Britain; and I can remember to this day the years leading up to it (the country’s independence), including the industrial struggles and the various political factions (my parents were members of the Butler Party) until Doctor Eric Williams brought some political stability to the country by the formation of the People’s National Movement (PNM).
I spent a further five years in that country before immigrating to the United Kingdom; however, during that first five years of Trinidad and Tobago’s independence, I lived through many changes and just to name a few: we saw the government taking over the ownership of BWIA; the introduction of free secondary school /college education; the scrapping of the railways that were operating at a considerable loss to the taxpayers and the introduction of a modern and effective national bus service. All this was happening years before St Vincent became an independent country. So when a Vinci referred to me as someone with colonial mentality perhaps this individual is a genius of a psychiatrist or a bigot.
I recently encountered a similar situation with one of your regular contributors who mostly writes with reference to Grenada, the country of my birth. No doubt I look forward to reading articles pertaining to that country for obvious reasons and therefore I have read if not all, almost all the published articles attributed to this individual without once commenting on any of them regardless of if I agreed or disagreed with any part of the articles. I see this as freedom of expression, something we cherish in the European Union and in the UK in particular.
The UK has a tradition of civil rights and civil liberties dating back to at least the Magna Carta in the 13th century. While successive governments have repealed most of the Magna Carta over the past 200 years or so, its guarantee of due process of law remains. Free speech has long been recognised as a common law right in the UK, it also has a statutory basis in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the “convention”), which has been incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998.
In fact, article 10 of the convention goes beyond free “speech” and guarantees freedom of “expression”, which includes not only the spoken word, but written material, images and other published or broadcast material.
Having recently read a published article that involved two trade unionists from Grenada, I felt it necessary to come to the defence of one of them for two reasons: 1. I felt that Chester Humphrey has a right to free speech; and 2. I believe the stance Chester Humphrey has taken is in the best interest of Grenada and the Grenadian people and therefore, the criticism was unwarranted. The chap in question is a Grenadian senator and as such is open to public scrutiny and criticism. Up comes this know it all Grenadian with an immediate response, “and Winston Strachan have you ever heard of freedom of speech and freedom of opinion. You are totally out of order. You are also paranoid.”
This know it all Grenadian, who never ceases to amaze me, reminds me of a quote attributed to Dwight D Eisenhower, president of the United States. With reference to Barry Goldwater, following his defeat by Lyndon B Johnson, the then president of the United States, Eisenhower is quoted as saying: “I like Barry, he is a nice fellow the only thing he hasn’t got is brains.”