Na­tional Work­ers Union Cel­e­brates 45th An­niver­sary

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT -

Among the first friends I made upon as­sum­ing the po­si­tion of Voice ed­i­tor (my in­tro­duc­tion to jour­nal­ism in Saint Lu­cia) was Tyrone May­nard. He, too, was at the time set­ting out on a new ad­ven­ture: tak­ing over the lead­er­ship of the Na­tional Work­ers Union. We’ve re­mained friends and shared many ad­ven­tures over the years, some­times land­ing in trou­ble with sec­tions of the so­ci­ety de­ter­mined to stay in their com­fort­able cob­webs— politi­cians mostly. We had our ups and downs, in re­la­tion to our work, but al­ways our friend­ship re­mained solid.

Even after I noted that my in­vi­ta­tion to the NWU’s 45th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion re­quired me to be in my seat at 9 a.m. I knew I’d be there, de­spite that I sel­dom get out of bed be­fore 11 on a Sun­day.

I fi­nally had no rea­son to re­gret the Her­culean ef­fort. It had been a long time since Tyrone May­nard and I met face to face; like me it seems he has be­come quite reclu­sive. Ditto his Cas­tro-bearded spe­cial com­rade, and my friend for all sea­sons, Lawrence Poy­otte—a grossly underrated tal­ent, and not only for jour­nal­ism and pho­tog­ra­phy! I had the great plea­sure of sit­ting with Guy El­lis, formerly ed­i­tor of the Voice, now semi-re­tired. Guy it was who first sug­gested, when I still lived in the UK, I should take up writ­ing as a pro­fes­sion. I’ve never re­gret­ted fol­low­ing up on that.

And then there was the prime min­is­ter of St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines, Mr. Ralph Gon­salves, al­ways a close friend of Tyrone May­nard and his Na­tional Work­ers Union. My own re­la­tion­ship with Ralph, to put it, er, diplo­mat­i­cally, had al­ways been an up and down af­fair, mainly downs, de­pen­dent on what he had writ­ten or said some­where; or whose pol­i­tics he had cho­sen to sup­port.

Of course, I’ve known Ralph even be­fore he held his cur­rent job. Over the last sev­eral years I’ve dis­cov­ered my­self sup­port­ing more and more of his con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sions, es­pe­cially on the is­sues of cit­i­zen­ship vend­ing and Amer­i­can in­volve­ment in re­gional mat­ters. Most im­por­tantly, I’ve learned to re­spect him for his will­ing­ness to con­front the pos­si­ble neg­a­tive fall-out from stand­ing by his con­vic­tions. My kinda man!

Ralph was the NWU’s key­note speaker. Suf­fice it to say he was ab­so­lutely at ease at the podium, cool in ca­sual wear, up to date on mat­ters re­gional and else­where, with a demon­strated fine ap­pre­ci­a­tion of metaphor. He is prob­a­bly the re­gion’s most well-read politi­cian, as fa­mil­iar with St. Paul as with Naipaul and Churchill. Again, my kinda guy. He also shares with fel­low Vin­cie the late John Comp­ton a salt’s sense of hu­mor. The dif­fer­ence was in their de­liv­er­ies. Ralph tends to serve his adult rib tick­lers with a dev­il­ish smile; Comp­ton re­mained straight-faced.

On the sub­ject of trade union­ism, how­ever, Ralph was dead se­ri­ous. Cer­tainly Tyrone could not have cho­sen a more ap­pro­pri­ate key­note speaker. It turned out Ralph had con­trib­uted much to Tyrone’s de­vel­op­ment as a trade union­ist. Maybe it was from Ralph Gon­salves that the NWU pres­i­dent first learned to stand by his be­liefs, re­gard­less of the risks to him­self. Most ap­pro­pri­ate was his telling ob­ser­va­tion that too many of our lead­ers know what must be done in the best in­ter­ests of our re­gion but lack the go­nads to act, largely be­cause they fear the right ac­tion at the right time might be tan­ta­mount to “po­lit­i­cal sui­cide.”

Ralph had his au­di­ence laugh­ing our heads off when he re­called un­der­tak­ing con­tro­ver­sial pub­lic cam­paigns all by him­self. Those who had promised faith­fully to be at his side had cho­sen in­stead to chicken out, of­ten leav­ing him to ad­dress on his own “some old man and his dog, with the dog pay­ing far more at­ten­tion than its owner.” Oh, but the lone ranger was self-con­vinced “the peo­ple in their bed­rooms were hear­ing me.”

Also ad­dress­ing the Royal St Lu­cian’s packed con­fer­ence room last Sun­day was Colin Jor­don, Min­is­ter of Labour & So­cial Part­ner­ship Re­la­tions in the Mia Mot­t­ley gov­ern­ment of Bar­ba­dos. Guy El­lis and I racked our brains won­der­ing who in our own par­lia­ment might’ve de­liv­ered as in­spir­ing an ad­dress. Had we not known in ad­vance Jor­don was a politi­cian, we might well have taken him for a young busi­ness­man who cared very much

about the Caribbean’s im­me­di­ate fu­ture: no point­less ex­ag­ger­a­tions is­sued from him, no de­mean­ing com­ments, no ac­cusatory fin­ger point­ing. His de­meanor and tone were easy on the eyes and ears, while his ad­dress of­fered a feast for thought. What a re­lief that not once did he sound like a politi­cian!

The open ses­sion con­cluded with the pre­sen­ta­tion of awards by the vis­it­ing prime min­is­ter, Saint Lu­cia’s gov­er­nor gen­eral Sir Neville Cenac and the NWU’s leader. I am pleased to say Tyrone per­son­ally handed me one of the more beau­ti­fully crafted tro­phies I’ve ever re­ceived, en­graved “cham­pion of jour­nal­ism.” I should add that the pre­sumed tough as nails Tyrone turned out not to be so tough after all. He sobbed openly while Lawrence Poy­otte de­liv­ered the vote of thanks, along the way paus­ing at sta­tions of the cross en­dured by the leader of the Na­tional Work­ers Union. Poy­otte ne­glected to add he was all the time at Tyrone’s side!

Awards were also handed to Earl Bous­quet, Dave Sa­muels, Sam ‘Juk Bois’ Flood, Ernie Seon, Lissa Joseph, Lawrence Ado­nis, Tim­o­thy Poleon, Micah Ge­orge and Guy El­lis for their con­tri­bu­tions to jour­nal­ism in Saint Lu­cia.

Mr. Ge­orge Theophilus and Ms Mary Fran­cis were also hon­ored. The first for con­tri­bu­tions to Saint Lu­cia’s eco­nomic, so­cial and fi­nan­cial de­vel­op­ment and Ms Fran­cis for un­flinch­ingly stand­ing up for hu­man rights.

Was it some­thing he said? For­mer Voice ed­i­tor Guy El­lis (left) can hardly con­tain him­sellf as STAR pub­lisher Rick Wayne typ­i­cally holds forth from his seat at the NWU’s 45th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion last Sun­day.

A sec­tion of the au­di­ence: Dame Pear­lette is flanked by his­tory maker Mikey Pil­grim (he served for three months as prime min­is­ter in 1982) and cul­ture min­is­ter For­tuna Bel­rose.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.