SEEN UP NORTH: Not best economic times
EVERY COUNTRY that belongs to the United Nations (UN) has an Independence Day, which simply refers to the historic moment when it became a sovereign state, free of colonialists.
Yesterday was Barbados’, dating back to November 30, 1966.
But what does independence really mean?
There are at least 100 references to freedom and independence in the Christian Bible. One of them is in II Peter, where believers are urged to “live as people who are free, not using our freedom as a cover-up for evil”.
Errol Barrow, often called the Father of Barbados’ Independence, had a different way of defining Independence for Barbados.
On a state visit to America in the late 1960s, Barrow met with Dean Rusk, then America’s Secretary of State, who whispered to Barrow that Washington was prepared to pay the newly independent nation’s subscription to the UN. Barrow politely refused, saying thanks, but no thanks.
“We have a saying in Barbados – if you can’t pay the “subs”, meaning subscription [to] a sports club, then you can’t play on the field,” he told Rusk.
Indeed, long before Independence, when Sir Grantley Adams was the island’s first Premier, the country was among the few Caribbean islands in the British Empire that didn’t receive annual grants in aid from London to run its affairs.
That chapter in Barbados’ history and the can-do spirit that comes with it were on the minds of about 300 Bajans in New York when they gathered at Russo On The Bay in Howard Beach in Brooklyn a week ago to celebrate the 47th anniversary of their birthplace’s march to sovereignty. They saluted their state with gusto, focusing on the achievement of the post-Independence era but were also mindful these were not the best of economic times.
In a message to Barbadians in New York, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart alluded to those difficult days when he wrote about the need to “take stock of the challenges facing Barbados”. He was quick to cite the global economic recession that started six years ago as the reason that “forced us to look critically at the same UN indices of human development which generations of Barbadians have come to take for granted”.
He went further. “With a shrinking economy and a widening deficit, we recently had no choice but to introduce a suite of temporary financial and economic measures.”
Lennox Price, the Consul General in New York, also struck that note, describing 2013 “as a challenging year for all of us. We have faced either economic or extreme weather challenges and in some cases both.” But he also commended Barbadians for working “together as a community,” persevering in order to build a successful country.
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley had unity and strength on her mind when she said in her message that “the [quality] of banding together for a common purpose” was crucial.
“Your focus on charitable, education and cultural needs are central to Barbados’ achievement of 47 years of Independence as a small country not only able to look after its own and to make its own way, but to do so in a remarkable manner that has made us outstanding among the nations of the world,” she told Bajan New Yorkers.