Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Tales of Decolonization #4: Adios Conrad

Last year when I attended the United Nations Regional Seminar in Nicaragua I had the chance to meet and talk to Reverend Conrad Howell from the Turks and Caicos, a fellow Non-Self-Governing Territory just like Guam, albeit in the Caribbean and with a different colonizer, the United Kingdom. Reverend Howell was clearly charismatic, even just from the few days that I spent with him at the seminar. He was articulate and not afraid to stir up controversy.

Like many other people that I've met from Non-Self-Governing Territories, we face similar problems of being small, being faraway and being forgotten. These issues are relative of course, but when we imagine the possibilities for our future, we feel a massive weight bearing down on us, which seems to compel so many of us to think that we shouldn't try to change anything, that our colonial situations are necessary because of our minuscule realities, we just need to accept being hopelessly dependent. But in each of our islands, we will always find voices who argue otherwise, who try to inspire in us a fiery anti-colonial or self-empowered spirit, that can help us see past these colonial myths. From my exchanges with Reverend Howell, he was someone like that. Here is a passage from the testimony that he gave at the UN Regional Seminar in 2011 at Saint Vincent and Grenadines.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, I submit to you that the handling of Turks and Caicos for the last two years, branded as DIRECT RULE, by the British Government, resoundingly makes the case for the Eradication of Colonialism.

Addressing the Special Committee, re: Advancing decolonization, on February 24, 2011, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that, “The completion of the process of decolonization will require the concerted efforts of all concerned: first and foremost, the Special Committee, the administering Power, and the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. Dialogue aimed at improving cooperation between the Special Committee and the administering Powers continues to be of the utmost importance.”

We in the Territory [Turks and Caicos] are truly grateful that we are not being left to our little selves to desire such illusions as self-determination, and I personally offer thanks for this very opportunity to look at the goals and expected accomplishments in this “Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.”

There is quite a difference between the world of 1945 and today’s world. Back then there were some ninety-six colonies and eleven “Trusted Territories,” while today there remain sixteen Territories. Notice carefully, however, that in the Caribbean or western Atlantic, some twenty-eight years has elapsed since the last sovereign country joined the ranks.
Last September, Reverend Howell passed away under mysterious circumstances. From article I saw online some people are speculating that foul play was involved. He was well-known in the islands for a variety of things, but most notably his writing of the national anthem for the Turks and Caicos "This Land is Ours." As Turks and Caicos are still a colony of the United Kingdom, it is not considered to be their official anthem, as that honor goes to "God Save the Queen." You find a similar issue at play in Guam, where Fanoghe Chamorro is well-known around the island as our national anthem, but at official events people still insist on playing/singing "The Star Spangled Banner."

Here below is the lyrics to his song.

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“This Land of Ours”
by Reverend Conrad Howell
National Anthem of the Turks and Caicos

O we salute this land of ours
Our country we declare
This promise land with its beauties grand
Though small it is our own

Chorus
Turks & Caicos, Turks & Caicos
Our country firm and free
Our allegiance Turks & Caicos
We pledge and we affirm.

Our people forged and blend
With multiplicity
Of race and kind and creed and tongue
United by our goals

From the east, west, north and south
Our banks and oceans meet
Surrounding sands and hills of glee
Our pristine beauties see

Chorus
Turks & Caicos, Turks & Caicos
Our country firm and free
Our allegiance Turks & Caicos
We pledge and we affirm.

We stand with courage brave
To maintain this land of ours
With Islands scattered here and there
With trust in God we stand

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