National Address By The Right Honourable Dr. Denzil Llewellyn Douglas Leader Of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition
FELLOW CITIZENS AND RESIDENTS,
I greet you on the occasion of our 34th anniversary as an independent nation. Over three decades ago, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis dropped the shackles of colonialism and stepped out boldly onto the world stage ready to assume its role as an independent member of the international community. It did so after many years of dialogue with the determination that the foundational work of our pioneering forefathers would not go for nought. Independence was, for us, more than just a conjured up image of political freedom and self-determination; it demanded strategic and visionary leadership to implement the national development plans required to advance a nation that is ‘stable, well managed and an economically sound member of the international community.’
For St. Kitts and Nevis, the journey of nation building hardly ever has been an easy one. Indeed we had our moments of turmoil when challenges demanded that tough decisions be made to surmount the vagaries of natural and man-made disasters, international crises such as the global financial downturn over which we had no control. These required strategic direction in order for us to survive and reap the benefits that accounted for our positive standing almost three years ago during the Labour Party Administration. We recall the myriad successive hurricanes that wiped out over 90 % of our housing stock and mandated that a new building code be established; we lamented the major infrastructural damage, the accompanying setback to our tourism industry and the hard blow that was dealt to our agricultural sector, all of which resulted in major socio-economic setbacks. But with vision and foresight and a determination to advance as a nation in the midst of our struggles we drew on our own inspiration and crafted policies for the way forward with innovative programmes that kept us in good stead and catapulted us to the No. 1 position in the region.
As we ponder on the theme for this year’s independence (Youth, Vision, Integrity: Securing our Nation’s Prosperity), we naturally reflect upon the vison of our government that embraced our youth as the major standard-bearers for the future. That is why, under the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party’s leadership, focus was placed on educating them and ensuring that they developed the life skills necessary for self-sufficiency. The one-to-one laptop programme, for example, was futuristic and was designed to prepare our youth for the technological demands ahead and for their own empowerment and prosperity. We were determined that none of our children would be left behind and hence our thrust towards improved academic performance, skills development and entrepreneurial empowerment as demonstrated with the state of the art Saddlers Secondary School and the New Horizon Centre. These were the indicators to measure the success of the programmes that targeted our youth. You have heard of programmess such as the PEP, REACH, GRASP, SEED, WISE, SEAF, etc – all of these were designed to create educational, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for our youth while enhancing the integrity of our people, as a whole, as they were encouraged to lead productive lives. We saw many of our young men and women turn from a life of crime and violence and with the assistance of committed security officers and other social partners, were able to see the impact of these programmes which were implemented with the support of the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF).
As we commemorate yet another year as an independent nation, we call for recognition and respect of our citizens’ human rights including the freedom of speech and freedom of association, and we call for a cessation of the discrimination and victimization experienced by of our citizens particularly our public servants, many of whom are our women folk and head of households.
This kind of treatment has no place whatsoever in what ought to be a progressive society. Our nation’s prosperity, integrity and security are not aided by this anachronistic politically-motivated conduct, and even as we prepare for the observance of another independence anniversary, alas another victim was delivered her letter of dismissal by a police officer.
We speak of securing the prosperity of our nation but we cannot do so in the midst of flagrant disregard for the principles of transparency, accountability, and where naked nepotism, cronyism and public malfeasance are the order of the day under the present Team Unity Government. The exclusion and marginalization of creditable businessmen from the economic life of the country does not augur well for the realization of the theme that ought to be associated with the spirit of our independence celebration this year. The prosperity of our nation hinges on adherence to the tenets of good governance; however, this is constantly weakened by the overt erosion of parliamentary democracy which, in itself, is severely threatened by a Government that weakens the supervisory powers of the Public Accounts Committee of our Parliament.
These developments do not augur well for our Federation that has been built on the solid foundation laid by the first National Hero, the Right Excellent Sir Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw, our other national heroes and other distinguished men and women whom we also revere, especially those being honoured with the awards of the Star of Merit and the Medal of Honour. Their contribution to nation building was by selfless service to the people and country. The St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party has had a track record of over eight decades of exemplary service to this country. Our Party is among the most outstanding and progressive political institutions in the Caribbean region and has produced visionary and capable leaders who have taken the ship of state through the rough socio-economic waters.
As I reflected on the theme of our 85th anniversary of our Party: “85 Years of Service: Greater Strength through struggle”, the theme aptly sums up our accomplishments and those of our forebears who preceded us in service to this country of ours. I am proud to report that during the last Labour Party administration, the prioritization of matters affecting our youth was evident in all sectors of our economy and government. The record still reflects that our nation prospered then and rose to great heights under our leadership, making us proud of the remarkable transformation of the socio-economic landscape of our Federation after 34 years of independence. Today, our youths, as reflective of all our people, are crying out that things are hard and are scarcely able to survive.
Finally, as we celebrate yet another year of nationhood, let us recall that the month of September is the peak period of the hurricane season and the present forecast demands that we prepare for the imminent passage of Hurricane Maria that, according to the forecasts, should impact our islands in a few hours. We just experienced one of the strongest storms, Hurricane Irma, and by the omnipotent hand of the Almighty, the loss and damage sustained were minimal when compared to other sister islands of the Eastern Caribbean. The St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party in the true spirit of service to the people of this Federation has mobilized to implement a post-hurricane initiative that will relocate our nationals resident in neighbouring islands, who have been impacted by the devastating hurricane and will take them necessary emergency and staple supplies. My fellow citizens, let us all join together for the common good of humanity to sustain lives and the safety and prosperity of our Federation. We are a resilient people, but let us cry out to God Almighty for his protection and guiding hand just as he brought us out of slavery, through colonialism and the dawn of a new day through our independence.
Happy Independence 34! Thank you! Be safe and God bless!