Montenegro votes Yes for Independence, will Nevis be next?

By Everton ‘Swagga’ Powell a.k.a Obi

“The quest for independence and self-determination is by no means exclusive to Nevis, in every respect it is a global trend. There are certain theoretical underpinnings that have and will continue to inform Nevis’ quest for Secession. For one to better understand Nevis’ secession odyssey these underpinnings-internationally, regionally and locally, must be thoroughly examined.”Wakely Daniel: Nevisian author of the Book “In Pursuit of Sovereignty” A historical Documentation of Nevis’ Secession Odyssey.

I have chosen to use this quote from my former classmate Mr. Wakely Daniel for a second time in one of my articles because it speaks directly to the issue of the human will for self determination. Yet again the manifestation of this intrinsic human desire has sprang to life in a very bold and impressive way when Montenegro voted YES for secession from Serbia just a few weeks ago on Sunday May 21st 2006 to be exact.

This important milestone follows a significant event which occurred about a year ago almost to the very day when the French and the Dutch voted to reject the further expansion of the European Union into the forbidden territory of member country’s sovereignty.

Now Montenegro, one of the smallest countries in Europe, has taken that great step, it proves that the urge for self determination is constantly present no matter the size of a nation or the economic status of its people.

Once an independent kingdom, Montenegro was erased from the map after World War I and merged into the newly formed Yugoslavia. The country’s sovereign institutions were abolished, and its distinctive national identity went unrecognized. Many Montenegrins resisted, and a seven-year guerrilla war followed. Then After World War II, the six-republics of Yugoslavia became communist.

After a century of failed unions with its larger neighbors, the republic of Montenegro has finally voted to separate and restore its independence. The European Union through its previous efforts, sought to hamper the will of Montenegrins by trying to keep the country a defacto colony of the much larger Serbia in a so-call federal unity government. Yet this still couldn’t stifle the desire of the majority of Montenegrins to want to be free. So the zeal for independence was sealed by a national referendum which passed the 55 percent threshold required by European Union (EU) representatives for the country to be internationally recognized.

What I found very interesting is that the arguments that were made against the Montenegrin desire for independence are amazingly similar to those that are made against Nevis’ Independence quest. Some of the arguments made by those who opposed Montenegro’s independence drive were:

1 Montenegro is too small to survive on its own.

2 Family ties will be destroyed.

3 Religious and Cultural ties will be destroyed.

But of course these old worn out arguments just could not find sway with the majority of Montenegro’s population as they are not inline with the realities around the world. So too I strongly doubt they will find sway with the majority of the Nevisian public. Political independence for Nevis doesn’t mean family and cultural ties would be broken. Heck we share very close cultural ties such as cricket and carnival with other independent Caribbean countries and there are no break up of these cultural ties. Also many Nevisians families live in other independent countries such as the US, Canada and England but yet those family ties remain very strong.

On the flip side, the arguments that were made by those who supported the need for Montenegrin independence are very similar to what are being made for Nevis’ independence.

1 Serbia who is bigger is stifling Montenegro’s growth.

2 Full independence will bring greater economic prosperity.

3 Independence will foster a proud Montenegrin identity.

Montenegro’s pro-independence camp argues that this impoverished but spectacular country of soaring mountains and stunning Adriatic coastline is being stifled by Serbia. The ruling group says breaking away will boost the economy and speed the country’s path to joining states like Slovenia, also a former Yugoslav republic, in the prosperous European Union.

Nevisians, doesn’t this sound like deja vu all over again? Isn’t this one of the main complaints Nevis has about its political relationship with St. Kitts? St. Kitts is stifling the Nevisian growth prospects and preventing us from having an internationally recognized identity. Independence will fix all that.

The Montenegrin government has also pledged that the free movement of people across the new international borders will be guaranteed. This surety is also guaranteed by the Nevis Island Administration in its proposed Friendship Treaty.

Here it can be seen by the Montenegrin action, overwhelming proof that it is against the fundamental human spirit to be governed by an outside country or an over-arching body no matter how well intentioned they may appear to be. Nevis is no exception to this rule and that is why the Nevis independence movement has been ongoing in earnest for over 50 years now.

Those who are old enough to remember can relive vividly the 1961 spectacle of approximately four thousand persons assembled at Grove Park, Charlestown, in a demonstration sponsored by the United National Movement urging that Nevis secede from the union with St. Kitts.   At that demonstration, a resolution was moved by the people for Nevis to be separated from St. Kitts.

This was then followed by a another key event 16 years later with the unofficial referendum for secession on August 18, 1977, which was organized by the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) led by former premier Simeon Daniel.   Of the 4,220 persons who voted, 4,193 voted ‘YES’ for secession, 14 persons voted ‘NO’ and there were 13 spoilt ballots an astounding 99.4% voted YES.

Then in 1998 on August 10th, the people of Nevis voted in its first official referendum, in accordance with Section 113 of the St. Kitts Nevis constitution.  Of the 3,935 persons who voted, 2,427 voted ‘YES’, 1,498 voted ‘NO’ and there were 11 rejected ballots. Approximately 62% of the electorate voted in favor of the separation of Nevis from the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. This 62% was achieved in spite of a lackluster campaign by the Concern Citizen Movement, the ruling pro-independence party, an orchestrated No campaign by NRP the opposition anti-independence party and efforts to frustrate our independence goal by the federal government (who can forget the scare tactics used by Prime Minister Denzil Douglas in his speech on the eve of the referendum vote?).

These actions demonstrates that Nevis just like Montenegro, need to absolve itself from this dysfunctional political experiment call St. Kitts Nevis as full statehood remains the key prerequisite for national development. Only sovereign states rather than artificial federations or international dependencies can attract foreign investment and enter the most important international institutions.

It is for this very important reason why St. Kitts now boast the $32.5 million Taiwanese donated international cricket stadium while a cricket loving Nevis was left holding nothing except having to journey across a perilous sea (we all remember the Christena disaster where over 200 Nevisians died in 1970, indirectly made possible by a negligent federal government) to go and watch cricket in Basseterre. St. Kitts is able to use its access to international institutions and countries to seek funding for the stadiums and other structures in St. Kitts such as fisheries market of which they have kept every last one.

Let us think about it for a second, if this was a fair-minded federation it would have been logical for Nevis as the island with the total cricketing prowess by virtue of it having all the test players to have made the West Indies team from this federation, to have been the one to have the cricket stadium sitting at Long Point or Indian Castle. St. Kitts on the other hand for their love and success in football and athletics could have had the football and athletic stadiums built in Basseterre. But instead they have chosen to have all three facilities built in St. Kitts while Nevis gets nothing.

So Nevisians why do we linger and continue to be insulted in this unworkable political union? As is clearly evident we are not bucking international trends as some may want us to believe. Just like Montenegro we have our sovereignty and our identity to develop and protect. Let us remain unwavering, focus and forever vigilant and be embolden by the underpinnings of the Montenegrin stance on their sovereign rights. Premier Amory lets ring the Nevis independence referendum bell of freedom so we too may stand proud as a Nevisian nation!!