One enduring myth is that the colonial dependencies are “better off” than those countries which opted for self-government. However, the recent destruction of several northern Caribbean countries by hurricanes Irma and Maria have brought into the limelight the political plight of the remaining colonial dependencies in the Caribbean. These hurricanes have not only blown away roofs, but have flung asunder the false veil behind which has been hidden all the ugly features of dependency, under-development, marginalisation and lack of self-generated development which characterise the remaining colonies.
Those who demand the end to colonialism in the region, do so on the basis that colonialism is a particularly exploitative relationship, in which a foreign power makes decisions, not in the interests of the domestic population, but in the interest of colonising, foreign power. The anti-colonialists know that only when a sovereign people have decision making power in their hands, can they act in their own interests at all times.
The plight of the people of Anguilla, St. Maarten, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands post-Irma and Maria have brought sharply into focus their political helplessness. It was painful to hear an anguished Anguillan woman screaming that had it been a disaster in the UK, there would have been an immediate mobilisation of British power to resolve the situation. Her disappointed tone suggested strongly the mental shattering of her pre-hurricane assumption that she was an equal part of the British “nation”.
Similarly, the people of St. Maarten who witnessed their quick descent into anarchy, discovered how their absence of sovereign power left them without the capacity to mobilise their own state responses as required.
In contrast, whilst Dominica might have been more thoroughly destroyed than any of the other countries, it possessed the power to take its recovery into its own hands. Whilst Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, could use his sovereign power to address the UN General assembly to appeal directly to the world, his non-sovereign neighbours could simply call helplessly upon their un-interested imperial centres.
Note Donald Trump’s dismissive and arrogant rejection of Puerto Rico. Similarly, it has proven quite shocking to the people of St. Lucia that their Prime Minister Allen Chastanet would agree to house prisoners from the British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos, when the UK has immense and more than ample resources to address its security needs.
While the colonies are fine as zones of exploitation, and while they make good military bases, they become burdens when their citizens are in need of genuine humanitarian or developmental interventions.
It is simply a fact that colonialism is never a good thing for the colonised. Maybe the anguish of Maria and Irma may provide the spark to re-awaken the demand for a full and complete end to colonialism in the Caribbean.
By Dr. Tennyson S. D. Joseph