Castries, Saint Lucia, Thursday October 7, 2021:– A veteran Saint Lucian and Windward islands banana campaigner feels the industry can return to earlier Green Gold days, but not before it undergoes some radical transformation, including its ability to attract today’s technologically-minded youth.
President of the Banana Salvation Committee (BSC), Patrick Joseph, speaking here in a televised broadcast Wednesday commemorating the 28th anniversary of the death of two protesting banana farmers back in 1993, said such transformation would have to include a totally new change — like in brand-new clothing.
Interviewed on the popular ‘Zafe Nous’ program on MBC television, Joseph gave a detailed version of the events that led to the death of Julius and Randy Joseph during an altercation with riot police dispatched by the then United Workers Party (UWP) administration led by Sir John Compton.
Joseph and the leadership of the BSC called a no-cut strike that shut-down the industry, leading to the dispatch of the armed police Special Services Unit (SSU) to the valleys.
Joseph’s version of events drew negative remarks from some callers who interpreted his and the BSC’s roles back then quite differently.
But the combative campaigner, while soaking-in the criticisms, strongly hinted there were partisan interests were at work during the strike, accusing the critical callers of (back then) opposing the “no cut” strike calls.
Back then, the Clinton administration had also successfully supported complaints at the World Trade Organization (WTO) by American banana multinational companies in Central America (like Chiquita and Dole), opposing Caribbean preferential treatment on the European market.
One of the effects was wide and deep division between banana producers here, who together produced the most in the Windward Islands and had most shares in the marketing company Winfresh, but who – according to Joseph – were barred from attendance and effective representation.
Joseph also blamed competing banana producers for causing division in the local industry despite the collective strength they carried locally and regionally.
Asked about the industry’s future today, Joseph suggested the only way banana farming could return to its earlier glory years is to be made more-attractive for those farmers still suffering losses with no end in sight to their banana blues.
He said there were “at least 500” banana farmers still depending on the industry returning to the better days and “if we multiply by four persons per family, we have at least 2,000 persons depending on the industry today in Saint Lucia.”
Conversing completely in Kweyol, Joseph used a creative local phrase to describe the process he thinks the industry should go-through, to return to its golden past.
According to Joseph: Fig ni pou mettay kamizol! (“The industry needs to start wearing a suit!”)
By Joseph’s interpretation, the industry that generated yesteryear’s successes and changed the lives of so many for the better over decades, will not attract today’s electronically-minded youth “to walk miles” carrying bananas from field to packing stations and sales depots…
He definitely doesn’t see today’s young Saint Lucians engaging in the type of hard manual labor associated with banana production back in the 70s and 80s, before the Windward Islands and other Caribbean producers (including Jamaica) lost preferential treatment.
Joseph blamed other local and regional factors for bananas losing its former attraction, but insisted the status quo cannot remain.
Meanwhile, some viewers lamented the fact that 28 years after their death, while a farm was named ‘Ranju’ after them, not much is known about whether the families of the two men killed by police bullets were ever compensated by the state.