by George ‘Umbala’ Joseph
“Cry My Beloved Grenada, Cry.” Or Forward Never, Backwards Ever.
Will the real owner of Grenada turn off the lights before he, or she leaves – please!
You see, a whole lot of people in Grenada behave as if they own the place! In truth, and in fact, they only work here; but they don’t know that, and nobody seems to have the courage to tell them that they are pushing Grenada back to the fifties, when King Eric bought his first, black prefect motor car and ran a ribbon from the bonnet to the door, as if it were a “V” for victory in his pristine white suit.
Those were the days of “Loyalty,” and “Dignity,” and “Sunlight” and “Mayfair” and “Eastern Pride” and “Victory” and “Eastern Star” and “Western Pride” and “Florida’s Pride” all painted by “Fowl Wings” that remarkable artist whose gift it was, not to have normal hands like everybody else’s, but painted the names of the buses in Gothic English Script like nobody in Grenada ever could.
Back then, people were people, and people knew their places; they had respect! It wasn’t like now, where every person with a motor car, and indoor toilet believes him, or herself to be “Miggle Kloss” with the right of passage with a behavioural pattern that serves as a disincentive for even returning Grenadians to turn their backs on the country of their birth, and never return to it.
There are petty officials, more particularly Immigration Officers who either do not know their jobs, or understand their functions.
Not for the first time, I have come face to face with what one who travels the world can call, “Insulters who don’t know better, and go out of their way to hurt Grenada.”
Since January 26th 2011, I have come to the conclusion that little people with a half-ounce of authority in Grenada abuse that authority with impunity, with no option of redress.
Imagine the Prime Minister in a democratic country, in his own land; in the V.I.P. Lounge, is boldly body-searched by the vulgar, herd of the jumped-up peasantry. And nobody was fired!
Where did their training come from? Who trained them in protocol and standard one diplomacy? Would they have dared to do this to Keith Mitchell, were he Prime Minister? Or was it designed to humiliate and embarrass the Honourable Prime Minister?
That nobody got dismissed from their job, as far as is known, is the worst for care!
As I write, four unsavory matters (I cannot call them incidents) come to mind.
I am the owner of all of that private island known as Isle de Caille. I pay my annual taxes as is expected of all of us who own property in Grenada, for without taxes the machinery of government will cease to function.
Word got to me in Trinidad where I have been living for most of my life. I have done well, and I am grateful to many people of Grenada, without whose help a whole lot of my achievements would never have been possible.
As I was telling you, word got to me that my personal home on the island was broken into; items stolen, and importantly, who the perpetrators were.
I called the St. Patrick’s police station: the Corporal in charge at the time, told me that the Detective for his District is based at Gouyave.
I called the station at Gouyave, I was informed that the Detective was away from the station.
I asked to speak with the senior officer in charge. I was in luck, I thought, when a Superintendent came to the ‘phone. I explained to him the related and pertaining circumstances. I further explained who my agent was, and all on-the-spot-information could be had from that person.
That, it seems, was my biggest mistake. That nasty man with authority, asked me: “You have papers to prove de lan’ is yours?” I couldn’t believe my ears!
On my next visit I took my ‘papers’ to show the son-of-a-b,,,, but I met only his juniors who only laughed when I told then the story and left them copies of ownership.
At the beginning of January 2010, I personally counted by automatic checker, 151 long-horn goats on the island. As I write, there exits not a single goat left. I called the Prime Minister’s office, in his capacity of Minister for National Security.
I told his Secretary of my plight and pointed out how, and where I was in a position to hurt Grenada and needed to be satisfied that people’s property would be respected. I was only wasting time!
Neither the Minister, or his Secretary gave me the satisfaction of returning my call. That told me a lot about the man and his Office.
The net result was a net loss to Grenada of probably 400 jobs, an American investor, flying all the way from the Midwest to invest in Echo Tourism and Theme Park with horned goats; left the island after two hours without seeing, “one goat,” as he departed.
Seeing me as an untruthful person, rather than a victim of Grenadian transgressors and police inaction, since I was too embarrassed to tell an investor that Grenadians are destroyers and thieves.
On this subject, I could write a book, since today’s Grenadian believes what belongs to you, is theirs to do what they will, and that means, destroy.
Since they don’t know the value of anything. Grenadians who have remained at home suffer from a serious bout of xenophobia and it transforms itself to xenophobic enviousness. They behave as if no one has the right to innovate or attempt to improve the quality of life even for their own ultimate benefit.
They make the problem with Grenada come to life when they give the impression that they are the authority in Grenada, and either out of misunderstanding their role, or because of their natural propensity for arrogance, they retard the plausible progress of the place.
And it is a very real problem because every government worker with some semblance of authority behaves like he, or she is a boss. The net result being: Grenada has too many a… behaving like bosses!
Another of my personal bitter experiences went like this: On the evening of September 11th 2012 I arrived on a LIAT flight from Trinidad. Not for the first time I recognized the rudeness some Grenadian Immigration Officers show upon seeing a Trinidad and Tobago passport presented to them, particularly when presented by a Grenadian-born traveller.
My misfortune on that evening was to meet up this fat, black, ugly woman in uniform needing to know what was the “nature” of my business in Grenada. A reasonable question, given that my Immigration card stated that I was in Grenada on business.
I explained, in my reply, that I had come to pay my workmen their wages.
“How much,” as distinct from “How many,” she asked, “Workers you have to pay?” “Five.” I replied.
“Put down dey names on the immigration form.”
I complied. She told me that I did not put the names of the workers on the correct side, and I should enter their names on the other side. I then marked down five fictitious names, different from the first set. Without even looking at the form, she said: “you could go now!”
I look at the P.R. hype welcoming people to “Kirani Country” and didn’t know whether to laugh, or cry because my basic human instinct told me that if 100 Kirani James should bring glory to Grenada one night, it would be sullied by some petty official by the next morning.
In 1992, twenty years ago, I wrote a Trinidad best-selling book, “Diary of a Candidate.” It was a book based on this writer’s foray into the General Election the previous year.
The book remained on the top of the best sellers list for 18 weeks. It sold thousands of copies. I thought Grenadians had a right to read of the exploits of another who had touched the world of T&T politics since Grenada was never omitted from the campaign.
Seems I was wrong to think that. I visited the public library
and offered my work to the Librarian, a woman. She listened, as I introduced the book, and myself.
She coolly replied: “we doh ha no money to buy no book!”
I said, “Ma’am, there is no need for immediate payment; I am Grenadian born, and I am in Grenada every six weeks; besides, you can post me a cheque whenever you like.
The woman looked me in the eye and asked me: “So, becaz you is ah Grenadian I mus’ buy yuh book? We don’t want no book.” I said: “Sorry, thank you, and goodbye.” And walked away.
This year, 2013, I was to read in the ‘Trinidad Guardian’, a story by Trinidad and Tobago’s foremost historian, Michael Anthony, about a visit he paid to the same library, no doubt, to the same Librarian.
Anthony wrote that he journeyed to Grenada to research the life of Grenada’s most powerful son who changed the face and life of Trinidad & Tobago, politically, and industrially, Tubal Uriah ‘Buzz’ Butler.
Anthony related of how shocked he was to discover that not only could he not find any material on Butler; the Librarian claimed not to have ever heard of Tubal Uriah ‘Buzz’ Butler. Ask any of Trinidad and Tobago’s schoolchild who Butler was, and they could tell you!
Oh, by the way: I took the same books I was offering to leave with her, to the St. George’s University. A Mr. Mc Gurk immediately accepted them and subsequently forwarded the cheque payment.
I have since gone-on to write and produce four more books and not one is in any ‘Library’ in Grenada. The people in charge don’t know what they are doing. They are hurting the
country. Stifling it!
Some years ago, I was ‘home’ in Gouyave. A loudspeaker traversed the terrain that day announcing that there will be a discussion on the “Eradication of Poverty” at my old “Alma Mater”, St. John’s Anglican School; the school of Mr. Miller, and “Teacher Eli” (Peters).
I was encouraged to attend. I was saddened to find that there were only eleven persons in attendance, including three persons at the head table.
The remaining eight were invited to address the head table at will. A Guyanese school teacher “Shaper’s School” spoke of the tomatoes he had produced in his back garden and sold to an hotel in the South of the island, and suggested that the same could be done by all and sundry.
As a “Gouyvarian” who was awarded the Trinidad and Tobago’s Humming Bird Medal, Gold, for services to small business, the only person, so far, thirty-one years ago; I felt that I would be a traitor to Grenada if I did not ‘say something’ on small business, or business on the whole.
I half-introduced myself with the intention of not creating a stir as to who I really was. Before I could start, the Chairwoman told me to “sit down since there were other
people waiting to speak.” She then asked: “Anyone else?” Nobody showed their hands, or got up to speak.
I was sitting next to Mr. Dolland “Fatman” of St. Peter’s Street, in Gouyave. Interestingly enough one of the three women at the head table was my ‘step wife’ who was, at the time, a Cabinet Minister.
I sat down! As demanded by the chairwoman. Mr. Dolland shouted to the Chairwoman, telling her to allow me to speak since he knew who I was. By this time I had already taken my seat and felt too humiliated to get up and say anything.
To my mind, it was Grenada’s loss. How ironic, I thought. I had just returned from a ‘paid-for’ lecture tour in Atlanta on Small Business, and here I was, a stone’s throw from where I
was born, at the very school I was weaned in the pursuit of an education, and I was being denied the opportunity to assist.
Truth be told, to this day, Grenada is without the knowledge or idea I might have imparted on that night.
I have since travelled and imparted that same idea I had in mind, and the idea was implemented and it is a boon to the people I have shown, how, not only to make money, but provide a service and a livelihood.
My next encounter was with a bookstore in St. George’s. As a marketing person who multitasks, I wrote and launched two books, simultaneously in the year 2000. I took the books to that bookstore, which is no more, at that address anyway.
The way local bookstores operate with Caribbean writers is like this: they deliver their books to the stores on consignment. The bookseller pays for what are sold, and the writers either take away that what didn’t sell, or leave them with the ones that did not sell, in the hope that they do sell
They dare not do so with foreign publishers. They have to
purchase their books from suppliers. Anyway, in this instance, I delivered the books to a local woman with a Scottish name, shortened for endearment.
The woman took possession of the books with a large window poster. The woman was not the owner of the bookstore, just the manageress.
I returned to the bookstore ten weeks later, I was gleeful that there were no books on the shelf, believing that all of the books were sold. I was wrong!
The books, and the poster were returned to me with the deadly words: “The Ladies’ committee of St. George’s say that those books should not be sold in Grenada.”
In shock at her words, I know better not to argue; I collected my property, and left the store. Of course, I sold them privately with rave reviews from those of them who purchased the works.
Grenadians have a serious problem with a paucity of mind and mindset, and if that problem remains, it, Grenada will always be with that plantation mentality.
There seems to be a type of xenophobia that plagues and blights Grenada and public servants, including the police, are the biggest perpetrators of this self-destructing miasma.
Grenadians on the whole are grossly ungrateful people who tend to either forget, or choose not to remember, or, at best, ignore their social responsibility towards honest development for the country’s good.
They seem not to either know, or think that they have a part to play in the building of their small country.
One may never want to accept the views as expressed about ingratitude, but can any one explain to me why Grenadians have named a street after Herbert
Blaize and Ben Jones, a highway and the lone airport after a man who violated the innocence of Grenada democracy, Maurice Bishop, and not even an alley, or lane was named after Eric Matthew Gairy?
It is as if E.M. Gairy had never lived, died, or buried in Grenada. Somebody should have to answer to that!
But that is our Grenada, an incubator to spawn Grenadians for other countries. A place where everybody wants to leave and maybe send something ‘home’, because that’s all it’s good for.
Those of them who stayed are resentful of those who left, believing that we were all Bluggo and Jacks people who have come back, to show-off on them but they are not having that.
So their resentment is worn on their sleeves and hems. So from time-to-time their expectations will hang high, and low as election time looms. The government will change and promises made will not be fulfilled, and more resentment will loom, and we’ll all return to square one, and nothing will change, not as long as the obscenities on the Lance in Gouyave continues anon.
But Grenada and Grenadians will never change. Not until and unless their attitude changes. If Grenadians change their government every Monday morning, and the people do not change their attitude, just once. Nothing
will happen! There’ll be no change! They’ll have to stop the envy. The hate. The spite, and the petty greed if they want to have a better Grenada to live in.
So they change their governments one hundred times and did not change the way they do business – just once, don’t hope, or expect anything good to happen to you.
Trust me on this one. I wouldn’t lie to you.
(George ‘Umbala’ Joseph is a Broadcaster/Publisher/Writer/Businessman/President of Civil Liberties Union of Trinidad and Tobago)