We Must Maintain Civility and Respect

I returned to Saint Lucia yesterday from a sobering trip to the British Virgin Islands, where I witnessed the mind-numbing devastation caused to that country by Hurricane Irma. I have never been to a war zone, but Tortola looks the way I always pictured a war zone. Demolished buildings, road infrastructure badly damaged, twisted metal and steel all over the place, large boats run aground by monster waves, almost every other car badly damaged and being driven with plastic where windshields (front and/or back) and side windows should be. I heard stories of concrete houses where the paint had been stripped off completely by the wind, concrete roofs being blown away, and other previously unimaginable acts of destruction by wind and water. My friend Claudius J. Francis has described similar scenes in Dominica. That trip to the BVI reminded me of our new reality in the Caribbean and I pictured Saint Lucia under similar circumstances. I shuddered at the thought.

But this is not the focus of this piece. I started with it just to show how vulnerable and fragile our country and communities are and how at the end of the day, we must start to focus on the Saint Lucia We Want and not the Saint Lucia We Have. This will be my focus over the next few months. I hope to launch my book Governing in a Small Caribbean Island State next month, and use that to start a conversation about better governance in our country. I have also been working on a framework for a development agenda for The Saint Lucia We Want, which I also intend to unveil in the coming months.

But the Saint Lucia We Want must start with a better way of relating to each other and working together. It has to involve greater maturity and magnanimity. Our political differences cannot cause us to abandon basic principles of civility and respect.

I can understand the anger and the frustration of those who have devoted their lives to protecting our country and its citizens from corruption, victimization, poor government decision making. and the destruction of our patrimony. There are things currently happening in our country that make me very angry. But in expressing that anger and doing something about the injustices in our society, we have to maintain certain levels of decency and respect. Unfortunately, occasionally, we will say things that we should not. We do it in our own personal relationships. We are human. We make mistakes. Passion and adrenaline cause us to step over the lines sometimes. When we do, we should admit our mistake, apologize and move on. Apologizing for an error does not absolve the person you are prosecuting of his or her sins. Not apologizing, however, turns that person into a victim and possibly a martyr. The reference to 'coolieman' was wrong and should never have been made on a political platform. Comparing it to the derogatory and inflammatory NICE placard and using a defence of hypocrisy might be valid, but it does not make the 'coolieman' reference acceptable. This is a moment for maturity and owning up to a mistake. Let us teach our children that this is the right thing to do.

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