2007 New Year’s Address To The Nation By The Right Honourable Sir John G.M. Compton
New Year’s Message 2007
The Prime Minister,
the Right Honourable Sir John George Melvin Compton
January 07, 2007
My Dear People of St Lucia, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Although I am unable physically to enter into your homes, at this time of year, to give you personally, my very best wishes for the coming year, yet I thank you for permitting me to share some thoughts with you through this medium.
What an experience this past year has been! A virtual roller coaster ride of emotions and expectations - of hopes and fears, of disappointments and jubilations and at last it is over: At least that part of it.
The people of St Lucia in voices loud and clear. They “brought back the light”. A light which returns them to the days when they could feel secure in their homes, then they look forward to sustainable employment in their own country.
To calm their fears, to realize their dreams and to create this vision of beautiful St Lucia, they have elected a Government which they can trust and in whose hands they can confidently place the future of their country and the future of that of their children.
By this act of confidence and trust, at the end of last year, they did in effect:
Ring out the old;
Bring in the new;
Ring out the false;
Bring in the true.
Now that the tumult and the shouting have died, now that the battle flags of political conflict have been furled, now that the war drums of political rhetoric throb no longer, it is time for us to get to work to fulfill your dreams, and for your Government to deliver on its promises made to you - promises which caused you to put your trust in them. This is a hard and honourable charge, because these elections were based on trust and if this trust is betrayed, these promises remain unfulfilled, then such betrayal deserves the punishment which you so recently inflicted on those who betrayed trust which you reposed in them, when they failed to deliver on what they termed “the contract of faith”.
As I begin my work, to be worthy of the trust which you reposed in me and the team which we have chosen - you through election and I through selection - and with the help of our God, I will endeavour not to disappoint you or in any way to betray your trust. That cross which you put on your ballot paper, will be the signal of the resurrection of our country into that which you knew in the past - your sweet St Lucia shall return – Papa is back. Your prayers will be answered.
Already we can feel the effect of a calmer and more peaceful atmosphere. The tensions of the past have been broken and peace has returned.
This atmosphere, with your help, we are determined to preserve. We wish to continue to live in a safe and secure environment so that you can do the work of developing our country and not run to so called greener pastures to pursue your dreams.
The task ahead will not be an easy one but the yolk will be easy and the burden light if we have your co-operation, your patience and your understanding, and this I beg of you.
Our first task is to heal the wounds inflicted by the political tribalization which we suffered over the past 10 years, when concessions and patronage were distributed by political favours, when advancement was determined by the colour of your “T-Shirt” and not by character or ability. The Government you chose on December 11, 2006 will be the Government of St Lucia – all the people of St Lucia.
We must get away from the days of political discrimination and victimization, under the guise of “affirmative action”. These days are done. All who live within the borders of this country are entitled to fair treatment regardless of the colour of your shirt or the content of your politics. In return for this we demand that those who help in the administration of the country leave their politics aside and deal with the public without fear and without favour.
Our task in Government is made all the more difficult. The Government machinery I left when last in office some 10 years ago, is not the machinery I met on return. St Lucia can be compared with a yard in which there is a huge stone. The yard may appear clean, but on shifting the stone, we see all that was hidden underneath it – the corruption and the politicization of the pubic services and the statutory corporations.
We appear to be operating under classical old socialist system of Government, where it is difficult to know where the Party organization ends and the Government machinery begins. In our system of Government the public services are supposed to be non-political and function in a fair and impartial manner. In return for these public officers - be they Civil Servants, Police, Teachers or Nurses are given job security – which is not available in other spheres of employment in our country. We cannot have the benefits of security and yet blatantly involved ourselves in partisan politics as was far too obvious in the last General elections even among senior public officers.
If departures from these rules are dealt with within the context of discipline, let it not be said that it is a matter of victimization or political discrimination. Rules must be obeyed otherwise we will descend in chaos - ruled by the laws of the jungle. We cannot develop in this way. The spectacle of a senior police officer taking to the media to air his grievances cannot go unobserved. We cannot accept the benefits of the system and not its obligations. The two go hand in hand. In spite of the possibility of being accused of ‘witch-hunting’ we should not ignore the flagrant breaches of financial and other rules which result in millions of dollars of cost over-runs nor should deflections of public funds to private use and benefits be dismissed as mere ‘lapses and infelicities’. These are corrupt practices which should be inquired into. If these matters are ignored a very dangerous precedent will be set for the general conduct of Government.
Another challenge which must be met, not only by your Government but by the entire people of St Lucia is that of our preparation for, and conduct during the Cricket World Cup, which is only a few months away. For the next six months and beyond, this event will absorb much of our energy and organizational resources - both of the Government and our people. For a few short weeks, St Lucia will be on centre stage of the world. How we perform then will have lasting effects on our country. This is a challenge which we must convert into a golden opportunity and reap the benefit of the hundreds of millions which both Government and people have already invested. This event can either be a “great party” followed by the “mother of all hangovers” the morning after, or one which can provide lasting benefits for both our country and our people.
Although much has been invested in this venture, there are still many loose ends which we must endeavour to correct in the short time available. In some areas it is already too late to reap the full benefits of the potential harvest, because the seeds have not yet been sown and little preparation has been made. For example, there will be thousands of visitors to feed, yet the farmers have not been involved. What an opportunity for our egg and poultry producers, or for our fruit and vegetable farmers! But this appears to be a missed opportunity. There are also opportunities for our musicians and entertainers but no adequate preparation has been made. The preparation for passenger reception seems to be chaotic at best. The emphasis appears to have been on accommodation only for which generous tax and other incentives have been given.
The terminal building at Vigie is inadequate, even in ordinary times but the opportunity for relocating it has been lost. Rather, the millions are being spent on the Vigie Choc/Babonneau road which, at $15 million per mile, is perhaps the most expensive road in this hemisphere.
The arrangements for the landing of thousands of passengers from the cruise ships anchored in the Gros Islet bay appear to be in adequate, so too are the arrangements of the disposal of solid waste from these ships. And unless these issues are addressed, the effect on our marine environment will be disastrous.
Over one year ago, I suggested to the then Prime Minister that there should be wider participation in the planning of this event, because it appeared then, and has happened now, that there would be a change of Government. This suggestion was scornfully dismissed. Now that my prediction has come true and we have “brought back the light”, we must all unite to make things right. After all, St Lucia will be showcased to the world and we must do our best to show the world, the best face of this beautiful country that is St Lucia.
This glorious opportunity should not be missed, whatever may be the short comings of the preparations at this time. There are other challenges which we must face in the immediate future as we try to crawl our way out of this dark hole which St Lucia is now in.
We have already taken steps to revitalize our agriculture by securing fertilizers and other inputs for our farmers and very soon a mission will be sent to the United Kingdom to secure a bigger share of the market. In spite of the millions of dollars said to have been spent on agriculture, our market share has shrunk from 120,000 tons to 35,000 tons although the market has increased from 360,000 to 750,000 tons.
Many of our public roads are in a sad state of disrepair and many public buildings have been abandoned. An inventory of these roads and buildings will be made immediately so that repairs to these roads and buildings can commence as soon as possible, creating employment for many in the construction industry. As promised the search for investors in the Information Technology Sector (IT) will commence immediately in an effort to create employment for the many school leavers who roam the streets some seeking employment while others fall victim to crime and drugs.
The task force on Education Reform to implement a meaningful Universal Secondary Education Programme will soon be appointed. So too will be a committee to implement the Universal Health Care Programme.
These are but a few of the initiatives which your Government will implement immediately.
A wider and more comprehensive programme will be announced in the Budget which is due in a few weeks time that is before 1st April this year.
In the meantime, attention is being given to the re-organization of the Pubic Services and the various Statutory Boards, to depoliticize them. This will not be an easy task, so pervasive is the poison which has been injected with the system over the past nine years. This process will delay but will not alter our resolve to remove the blight of corruption, cronyism and victimization and give St Lucia a Government of which it can be proud and which will convert your greetings of a bright and prosperous New Year, from a mere wish to a reality. To this we need your continued confidence, and support - from each according to his or her ability. But more than ever, we need your prayers – your prayers which have brought us thus far.
As we face the New Year I am reminded of the prayer:
‘I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year; Give me a light to take me safely into the unknown’.
And the man replied:
‘Put your hands into the hand of God and it will be there, Better than a light and safer than a known way”.
Let us heed this advice as we wish each other a Bright and
Prosperous New Year.
This is my wish to you, my people.
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