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JUST LIKE IT IS – Of national icons


Peter Simmons

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I did not follow the radio broadcast of the debate in the House of Assembly relating to the gift of heavily discounted land at Apes Hill by the Government to singing sensation Rihanna. However,
I listened to Wednesday’s Senate debate and having made a comment on a call-in programme, wish to follow up.All Barbadians should be proud of the international success of this young lady who left here as a teenager from humble beginnings and has covered herself and this country in glory across the globe becoming an international icon.Some weeks ago I saw her on a wide-ranging 30-minute interview on CNN and was highly impressed with the way she handled herself. Those who taught her at Combermere must feel justifiably proud that one of its graduates should be so accomplished without any further formal academic training. Clearly it will be to the Apes Hill developers benefit to tell potential purchasers that they will share a neighbourhood with Rihanna. It is to the particular credit of Sir Charles Williams that he also recognised the achievements of Obadele Thompson and Ryan Brathwaite, like Rihanna, honorary ambassadors, rewarding them with gifts from his burgeoning prime land bank.Against that background, please permit me to share an experience. One evening recently a student doing a project on a Barbadian minority ethnic group which I had researched, written about and made a film for a British television, came to see me.During the course of our conversation she mentioned having heard me mention on a radio programme the name Fenty (Rihanna’s surname) as a well-known name from the particular ethnic group she was researching. She then enquired whether I had seen a recent posting on a Barbadian blog featuring an edited picture of her.I told her I had not and brought down my computer to view it. I was quite shaken by what I saw. Now I am fully aware of this particular blog’s gargantuan capacity for mischief, its apparent raison d’etre, and ability to digitally manipulate photographs. I have seen them take the picture of a leading politician and caricature it with a pig’s snout and ears to make a scurrilous point.I am also aware that this particular blog and the people behind it are being exposed publicly causing a run (pun intended) on the stock of adult Pampers in Bridgetown. Their perverse campaign of wilful and deliberate denigration and defamation of certain Barbadians in pursuit of a sordid offshore scheme has unravelled with seismic consequences.Against that background, I tend to be skeptical about certain things posted on this blog. However, in the instant case and bearing in mind the fact that it is inured to the deleterious effects of its postings on the international reputation of Barbados and some leading citizens while hiding behind the cloak of anonymity, I wish to issue a warning.There are certain foreign publications which would delight in publishing an unedited copy of this particular image. As a designated ambassador for culture and youth, may I humbly suggest to the Minister of Foreign Affairs that the Chief of Protocol have a discrete word with ambassador Rihanna advising her about certain standards of dress and deportment.To whom much is given, much is expected. A word to the wise should be enough!
Kamau, Nelson and UNESCOIn last week’s column Cultural Lynching, Professor Kamau Brathwaite made the point that the “decision to move Nelson or not (and is a more serious issue than ‘opinion’) is political, defined as action resulting from the conversation/discussion between people& politicians . . . ”. The politician, the relevant minister, has ruled that the statue will be shifted slightly east. That chapter is closed for me.With the application to UNESCO to have Bridgetown designated a world heritage cultural site and the Garrison a focal point, the evaluators from headquarters in Paris will be visiting in the near future. As a patriotic Barbadian, I wish the applicant well confident that the much revered Nelson statue in our National Heroes Square will resonate and positively influence the decision.  As far as the Garrison is concerned, would it not strengthen the application if two modest artifacts in appropriate surroundings commemorating events of recent heritage could be shown off, like Nelson, to UNESCO? Regrettably, should they enquire as to the precise spot where the Union Jack was lowered and the Broken Trident raised, what is there to show? Nothing, zilch, nada!As strong nationalists committed to our heritage, will our representatives be comfortable saying we have only been independent 44 years and have not got around to marking this transformational spot. And the spot where Sir Garry Sobers, our only living National Hero was knighted? Well that was only 35 years ago and that too we have not got around to yet.I have often thought what Sir Garry would say to his grandchildren if one day they asked him to take them to the spot where he was knighted by the Queen. Surely if we are serious about our heritage, it is time that an effort is made to correct these quite horrendous oversights of key heritage sites.Once again I am constrained to close a column with words of concern and prayers for Prime Minister Thompson. My family and I were deeply moved seeing him on TV Thursday. We offer our prayers and very sincere wishes for a full and speedy recovery and God’s support to Mara and the children.
• Peter Simmons, a social scientist, is a former diplomat.

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