INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY MESSAGE
From Honourable Rufus Bousquet
Minister for External Affairs, International Financial Services, Information and Broadcasting
February 22, 2007
For an individual facing the challenges of life and growing up in this modern world, twenty eight years as a milestone would mark a stage when one should be quite mature and taking hold of his/her destiny. For a country however, twenty eight years of nationhood marks a very young age. To continue with the analogy, one is still a baby, by the standards of other countries which have been independent for many centuries.
But for us, however, the learning curve with which we are faced and the issues which confront us as nation states challenge us to grow and to mature at a speed unheard of in the past. We do not have centuries available to us, to meet our development goals, to fulfil our dreams, our aspirations and to place our small country on a sustained path of development.
Indeed it can be and has been argued that we face inherent constraints in pursuit of our dreams and our aspirations. Our size, our vulnerability as small states to both natural and man-made disasters, our paucity of natural resources, and many other structural weaknesses with which we must grapple, mean little in the present global order.
But perhaps the greatest challenge which we must confront is our mindset; what we consider to be important, our priorities, our response to adversity.
This year 2007, marks the 200th Anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. March 25th, 2007 will mark the 200th year since the proclamation of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. It is instructive that the United Nations, in passing a resolution at the 61st session of the General Assembly, acknowledges that the slave trade and the legacy of slavery are at the heart of situations of profound social and economic inequity, hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice, which continue to affect people of African descent today. The United Nations had in a previous declaration, the Durban Declaration, recalled the importance of the provision of effective remedies, recourse, redress and compensatory and other measures at the national, regional and international levels, aimed at countering the continued impact of slavery and the slave trade.
This not withstanding, and whilst we may continue to argue for the merits of reparation, it still does not constitute a valid reason why we should continue to be in the frame of mind that we must continually be dependent on others, that someone owes us something whether by virtue of past association or misdeeds and that we should convey the impression that we are mendicants.
In choosing a theme for the commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the abolition of the salve trade the Caribbean Community decided that “CARICOM reflects” was an appropriate expression. Therefore, as we engage on a process of reflection in the observance of twenty eight (28) years of nationhood, it is opportune that we also take time to think about the issues that derive from slavery and the slave trade and how we may free ourselves of this mindset that someone else is responsible for us, and for everything we do; that Government is responsible for the disposal of our waste, for our children after school and for most other matters which we should accept responsibility for.
If as Minister for External Affairs, International Financial Services, Information and Broadcasting, there is one thing I would like to see my Ministry contribute to reversing, it is this mindset of dependency, of helplessness.
It is for this reason that as Minister for Information and Broadcasting, I intend to use the Instruments at my disposal, namely, the Government Information Service (to be renamed the Department of Information Services), the National Television Network (NTN) and Radio Saint Lucia as tools to inform, to educate and to enlighten. In that regard, while Radio Saint Lucia will be expected to run in a commercial atmosphere as efficiently as possible, it’s principal mandate will not be profit making. It will be a public radio station with a mandate to produce and broadcast programmes that will educate and enlighten, and help in the transformation of our country. It cannot be used as an instrument of propaganda whether for Government or any other interest group, I invite the entire media to join me in this Crusade.
In the area of External Relations, enlightened self
interest must characterize our actions. In the language of international
relations, Saint Lucia is defined as a small island developing state. It is a
tiny landmass – 616 sq. km surrounded by water and a population of less than
200,000. Saint Lucia has to manage its finite human, financial and natural
resources in the most prudent way possible.
This means that as a Country, we cannot adequately respond to every major issue or occurrence in every part of the world. Neither can we afford to locate representatives in all of the world’s major capitals. Rather, we must be extremely selective in the global interests we seek to pursue. This means prioritizing through necessity rather than individual preference, so that it may not be said that we favour any one country or region over any other in our international relationships. Indeed, understanding the peculiar challenges and vulnerabilities of small states, avoidance of posturing, ideological wrangling and political confrontation must be a lasting feature of our external relations.
We will continue to pursue the ideals of democracy, human rights and personal freedoms. Yet we must also recognize that such freedoms are unsustainable if not tempered by responsibility. We must not therefore be afraid to take a moral stance against human rights abuses, and other undemocratic actions whenever they may occur. Even as a small state we accept that a world made up of democratic nation states, where governments are genuinely accountable to their people, held responsible for their actions, and committed to justice in international economic, social and political relations is a world where peace and security have an opportunity to flourish.
The advent of globalization and trade liberalization has meant that things we used to take for granted are no longer available to us as options, or are no longer part of the vocabulary of international relations. The demise of the cold war ushered in a new global economy that no longer places emphasis on the politics of aid. International trade orchestrated by multinational corporations, is now at the forefront of the landscape of international relations. This geopolitical shift has left small island states like the Caribbean in a very awkward position, a position where we are left with the distinct impression that the international community has no need for countries like ours and this is evidenced by the scant regard that is paid to our peculiar interests.
Whatever gains we make, we have to fight for individually and collectively, never letting our guard down in the process or else we risk being thrust aside in the unfair game of international politics. Being handicapped in our ability to compete in a liberalized globalised market for the exchange of goods and services in the new global economy has not in itself led to any concessions for us. Saint Lucia along with our sister states of the Caribbean have continually advocated for special provisions to be made for small island developing states, especially those of the OECS. We will continue to do this because if we do not protect our interests, then no one else is going to do it for us.
Finally, we have just been through what has been a very divisive and highly charged electoral process, which has ended with the people of Saint Lucia exercising their democratic right to elect the Government of their choice. I am sure that all right thinking Saint Lucians would have hoped that at the end of this process, the country would unify behind the new Government. But the healing process seems to be taking much longer for some, who are still to come to terms with the will of the people as expressed through the ballot box.
But this is not a time for Saint Lucians to be side tracked from our objective of national development. It is a time for us to rally as a united people to confront our problems.
As we celebrate the 28th Anniversary of our Independence, let us reflect on all these things, let us resolve to overcome in the face of adversity, let us challenge ourselves to be innovative, to think outside the box, to find solutions for the benefit of our country.
I wish all Saint Lucians a happy 28th Anniversary of Nationhood.
© 2012 CompanyLongName. All rights reserved.
Read our privacy guidelines.