The era in which we are living will go down politically as one of the most important ones in the history of our Caribbean civilization, a time when many Caribbean governments made genuine attempts to make the necessary constitutional changes, which would ensure the end of decolonization, so that their nations would become more fully independent, achieve a higher level of democracy, and their nationals would become more politically and psychologically empowered.
These attempts at constitutional change proposed the exodus of three Caribbean nations from the British Privy Council into the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as their final court of appeal: from St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2009 to Grenada in 2016, to Grenada again and Antigua in 2018.
Part of its significance for Caribbean peoples as well as other colonised or semi-colonised peoples elsewhere was that it asserted the widespread belief of a significant part of Caribbean people that independence matters. Independence matters because Caribbean people count. Independence matters. Decolonisation matters. Imagination matters. Culture matters. Truth matters.
These non-violent largely racially (not racist) inspired efforts were not as successful as they should have been, but they brought to the fore the urgent need for Caribbean teachers, political leaders, ministers of religion, our intellectuals (even pseudo ones) to define key terms and concepts, and even ourselves, as an important tactic to communicate meaning and truth to others.
Efficient defining, rather than wild speculations, is always important for the liberation of a people like us. For example, the French philosopher and socialist, Jean Paul Satre once defined black resistance to white racism as an anti-racist racism, a definition which was not accepted by many black intellectuals, who believed like me that true racism involved the use of power to dominate others. Even correct definition of the word fact is important since facts are often linked with the revelation of the truth.
Curiosity and questioning are always linked to uncovering the truth. Curiosity is an important quality for those who are devoted to finding the truth. Effective questioning is always important for identifying what are lies and what are falsehoods.
Generally, the people who expressed scepticism of the proposal to end our long sojourn with the British Privy Council, on the grounds that it was susceptible to interference by Caribbean politicians were unaware that the creators of the court had enacted more than a dozen provisions, as checks and balances, to ensure that this did not happen.
For instance, one provision determined how the court was to be financed: it was not financed directly by Caribbean governments, but by a loan from the Caribbean Development Bank. Another determined how judges were appointed and removed, which allowed for judges to be recruited from other Commonwealth countries. One of the more important provisions allowed for poor persons to access the court “without fees and security for costs.”
Unfortunately though, during the public debates in the different islands, the intelligence of our top jurists were regularly insulted, as many people, who have a tendency to stereotypically witness against themselves, did not seem aware that the mental powers of these men and women were not naturally unequal to jurists in other parts of the world.
Not only was the intelligence of the jurist insulted, but also their integrity; and most of the time, their critics, who took sides, not by meditating on the objective facts of the case, but as their political prejudices and convictions directed them, also wrongly believed that they were not capable of the highest standard of professionalism. Therefore, there were speculations in some quarters that these men and women among whom were the finest jurists in the world, would cheat for their political friends when necessary. I cannot believe that people like these understand what is meant by or are interested in Caribbean countries becoming mature democracies.
History should have taught us that the decolonisation of former European colonies, most often than not, demands the positive and united efforts of the colonised. India, for example, began its independence campaign in the 1930s, with a mass protest against what was then known as the Salt Law. The British, who had blinded themselves to the truth that India had vast reserves of salt, had passed this law so that its businessmen could perpetuate their monopoly of the Indian salt trade. Under the leadership of Gandhi, who once said that his only religion was the truth, millions of Indians defied the law by going to the sea to collect salt for their use.
The historical account tells us that over 80,000 people were imprisoned for exercising this right. Continued mass protest though, finally resulted in the law being repealed. Gandhi’s struggle against the imperialists also brought to light the truth that traditionally the Indians had been some of the finest cloth makers of the world, and that their cloth making had declined because it had been suppressed to promote British commercial interest.
Devonson La Mothe