Despite Grenada re-opening its borders for regional and limited international travel, the debate still continues on the decision that was taken by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to block movement and ties between the neighbouring residents of Carriacou, Petite Martinique and those Vincentian Grenadine islands in close proximity due to the coronavirus.
A resident of St. Vincent called THE NEW TODAY to criticise the decision given the historic ties among the people of all the Grenadine islands.
He said that some people would say that Carriacou is foreign to Union Island but it is not so in the minds of the residents.
“We have what you call a family relationship between Carriacou and Union Island because part of my family is from Petite Martinique and Carriacou as well,” he said.
“What you can say (is that) Carriacou and Union Island (are) two different countries but (it) is a joint union between Union Island and Carriacou when it comes to family and friends,” he added.
According to the Vincentian, it is unfortunate that some persons like Grenada’s Keith Mitchell were using COVID-19 to try and separate the small islands in the Grenadines chain.
He said: The people from Carriacou will come to Union without checking Immigration, without checking Customs and live here – do anything here, make a family here and nobody study them.
“The people from Union Island will do the same thing. Once they are not causing trouble in Carriacou, they stay in Carriacou and they make a family there, nobody study them but once they start being a troublemaker people will talk.
“It has been so for a number of years – since I was small am seeing that. I grow to become a man and still seeing it. Sometimes I go over to Carriacou without checking out Customs and Immigration because when I reach to Carriacou the first thing I will do is go to the Immigration Office and I would say that I am on the island because I don’t have a clearance and they will say to me (Name withheld) … we know you.
“…What I respect with the law of Carriacou is that once you tell them (Immigration) when you come – look I don’t have this (Passport) but I come to do this (business) they use their discretion and they deal with you. Every police in Carriacou know me so even though I try to enter Carriacou and hide, I can’t hide because my identity is already known in Carriacou,” he added.
Three months ago, there were sharp exchanges and a war of words between the Prime Ministers of the two neighbouring islands – Dr. Mitchell and St. Vincent’s Dr. Ralph Gonsalves – on the closure of their borders.
Dr. Gonsalves had invited residents of Carriacou & Petite Martinique to take advantage of cheap oil and food items from St. Vincent “in a structured manner” which resulted in Prime Minister Mitchell accusing him of encouraging people to break the laws of Grenada.
The Vincentian leader wrote Dr. Mitchell explaining what he had offered but the letter apparently never received a response from St. George’s.
According to the national of St. Vincent, despite Grenada’s decision to send a small Coastguard vessel in the channel of waters between the islands for COVID-19 protection, this did not keep the people from the islands under St. Vincent jurisdiction from interacting with their neighbours under Grenada’s control.
“The people from Carriacou and the people from Petite Martinique never obeyed the Covid-19 regulation in Carriacou. Some of the fishermen from the three island – Carriacou, Petite Martinique and Union and some local citizens did not listen – when they start listening is when the (Carriacou) police start taking matters much tighter and placing the real heavy penalties – that is when they start listening because the security enforcement was in place between Carriacou and Petite Martinique and Union Island,” he remarked.
The Vincentian noted that some of the persons in Union Island in particular who own speedboats realised that the security enforcement was beefed up on the Grenada side and then eased up on their entry into Carriacou & Petite Martinique.
However, he said that there were people from Carriacou who still took the risk and entered Union Island.
“I think they were able to apprehend one fisherman who took the risk but the others got away scotch-free but from Petite Martinique, I don’t think that they were able to apprehend any of the fishermen that were coming over,” he added.
The Vincentian national pointed out that the odd fisherman from Carriacou and Petite Martinique defied the orders from St. George’s and ventured into Union Island to do business.
He stated that the relationship between Union Island, Carriacou and Petite Martinique is such that “no matter how much enforcement you put it won’t be able to break it”.
He said: “Why you won’t be able to break it – the relationship between these three islands … it comes as if these three islands belong to one another. No matter what you say they are still going to do it (maintain their relationship).
“You will find people leaving Union and going to Petite Martinique and have a nice time – and having (a) party. People leave from Union Island and go to Carriacou and having a party especially when there is Carriacou carnival or the Parang festival.
“Carriacou people and Petite Martinique people will come over to Union in Easterval and they will enjoy themselves. Any little activity, any little party whatever Union Island is having, people from Carriacou and Petite Martinique will come over and enjoy themselves.
“The same things happen with Union Island – if Carriacou bring in any big artiste from Jamaica or anywhere Union Island people go over to Carriacou without checking Customs and Immigration. So it’s a very heavy relationship.
According to the Vincentian, he has often heard residents from Union Island saying that their small island belongs to Carriacou.
He said: “They don’t see it as Union Island belonging to St. Vincent and Carriacou as falling under the jurisdiction of Grenada. Also on Carriacou, people will say Carriacou belongs to Union”.
The Vincentian noted that there is a mentality among the residents of the three islands of Union Island, Carriacou & Petite Martinique from since birth that all three islands belong to each other because of their distance from both Mainland St. Vincent and Grenada.
“These people have the mentality still growing with them from how long with our great, great grandparents’ days that these three islands are still related to one another.
“And when you go through the family tree between the three islands they all have family members on each island – just like me I am one of them. I have family members in Petite Martinique and Carriacou and still have family members on Union.
“And any other person in Carriacou you speak to, any other person in Petite Martinique you speak to, they (are) going to tell you the same thing – they’re going to tell you, we have relatives in Union Island, we have relatives in Petite Martinique and we have relatives in Carriacou.
“It’s a long history with these three islands so the idea in everyone’s head is that we’re still related to one another. So the Covid didn’t touch them much – it only distanced you from being close to each other. But the people were still breaking the curfew and coming here (Union Island).