Introduction - May 29, 2004
My fellow Saint Lucians:
I am pleased to launch this new weekly program, entitled ‘Conversations with the Nation’, during which I will share with you my thoughts on some of the pivotal issues affecting our lives and inform you of the initiatives that our Government is pursuing to create and shape a better Saint Lucia.
I do not however, wish this to be a one-way interaction. I want to hear from you on the issues that are affecting you and receive from you your questions or thoughts on subjects that you may wish clarified. This is why I have asked that there be a facility for you to email your comments and questions to me, and I promise to do my best to answer as many of these as practicable on this programme. In that way, you can also be a part of this ‘conversation’.
Because this is my first address, I will touch briefly on some of the events which took place during a very eventful month of May, as well as the subjects that occupied our attention during the past week.
One Day International Cricket
Saint Lucians and visitors from the Caribbean and England enjoyed two spectacular days of cricket at our Beausejour Cricket Ground, now acclaimed by all and sundry as the very best cricket facility in the Caribbean and one of the best in the world. It helped that the West Indies won both of these matches and in so doing, secured a draw in what had, up until then, been a very disappointing home series.
Quite apart from the wonderful cricket, however, it was a pleasure for me to witness so many of our regional and UK guests enjoying the very best of Saint Lucian hospitality, immersing themselves in our culture and our language, and together with the thousands of Saint Lucians who attended the matches, displaying some of the best behaviour I have seen at such keenly contested games. I must thank all who attended for their exemplary behaviour and their tremendous support. You made me and your country proud.
I must also extend thanks to the many persons who worked hard behind the scenes, to make the One Day Internationals a success. Officials of the National Cricket Association, Sports Saint Lucia, the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, and the countless volunteers who worked tirelessly are all owed a tremendous debt of gratitude.
Saint Lucia Jazz
On the heels of the cricket excitement came the fever that has now traditionally infected Saint Lucians during the month of May – Saint Lucia Jazz. This event, now in its thirteenth year, is now recognized as the biggest and best in the region and ranked within the top three in the world. It is fitting, therefore, that I recognize and pay tribute to the persons whose vision conceptualized and gave birth to the event. We are eternally grateful for your foresight and your efforts.
In an effort to give Saint Lucians complete ownership of the event, our Government has sought to take Jazz to areas hitherto not associated with the Festival. So Jazz is no longer for hotel venues, it is now a cherished activity for the people of Bocage, Fond D’Or and Balenbouche. The opening of Saint Lucia Jazz has become as synonymous with the community of Marchand as have the mainstage performances with Pigeon Island. It is as eagerly anticipated at the Soufriere Waterfront in Laborie and Vieux Fort as it is in the Rodney Bay Village. From Jazz on the Square to Tea Time Jazz and Jazz on the Pier, all Saint Lucians can now get a taste of jazz and reap its benefits.
However, Saint Lucia Jazz is about more than just music. It is about people from all parts uniting through song. It is about hotel rooms being filled during what previously, had been a low period for the hotel sector; it is about taxi drivers reaping more benefits at the tail-end of the tourist season; it is about our vendors selling more of their products to visitors, wishing to take a piece of our lovely island back with them; and it is about our island receiving marketing exposure above and beyond what would have been possible through traditional means. Above all, it is about our collective ability to manage a world class event.
So we must continue to build and improve on what Kenny G himself described as one of the best festivals in the world, and what he personally told me is one event he will never forget. We must continue to allow the benefits of the festival to spread through the length and breadth of our island. And, as Pigeon Island on Sunday taught us, we must develop the capacity to respond quickly and sensibly to unexpected circumstances, and to listen to our patrons and resolve as best we can, their concerns. I have no doubt that Saint Lucia Jazz will continue to get better and to ascend the totem pole of world music festivals.
A Moment of History
Just when we thought that Saint Lucia had achieved as much success as it could in the month of May, came news that our own Darren Sammy had been selected to be part of the West Indies One Day International squad to take part in the triangular One Day series in England.
Darren’s hard work and discipline have started to pay off, and I say started, because we expect many more big things from him. I stated in my Budget Address in April that I look forward to his receiving the Man of the Match award when the Cricket World Cup comes to Saint Lucia in 2007, but I also await eagerly another earlier milestone – his selection to the West Indies Test Cricket squad.
Darren’s achievement is also the honour of those great Saint Lucian cricketers who preceded him, and who, for one reason or another, not all entirely within their control, never broke through into the West Indies team when so many thought they could and would.
Like all Saint Lucians, Darren’s parents deserve to be proud of their son, and I would like them to be present the day when he steps on to the cricket field as a member of the West Indies eleven. Therefore, the Government will make it possible for that to happen by meeting the expenses of his parents to travel to England to watch Darren play. Of course, the expectation is that Darren will be selected to play.
Preparations for Cricket World Cup
Last week, the Venue Assessment Team that has been contracted to assess the readiness of countries to host matches during Cricket World Cup 2007, started off their tour of duty in Saint Lucia. From all indications, the visit went exceedingly well, and the feedback from our Local Organizing Committee, World Cup Saint Lucia Inc, is that the team left Saint Lucia satisfied with what we have or will put in place for the World Cup. Therefore, I await the announcement on July 4 of the venues chosen to host matches and will say more on that subject at that time. I want, however, to thank World Cup Saint Lucia Inc. and all of the affiliated persons for the enormous challenge that they have undertaken and so far, admirably fulfilled.
This past week, Saint Lucia hosted an Internet Fiesta, which is intended to popularize this important medium and sensitize our people, particularly our children and youth, to the many educational opportunities available over the World Wide Web. More importantly, it is an initiative that forms part of our Government’s modernization and re-engineering programme, as we seek to create more efficient modes of interaction with civil society and more effective vehicles of service delivery. The response to this year’s Internet Fiesta has been very positive, and in the coming months I will say more to you on our E-Government programme.
Getting Ready for the Hurricane Season
We have all commented, at one point or another, that this year’s weather has been anything but predictable. Almost every venue at which international cricket was scheduled this year, with the one fortunate exception of Beausejour, suffered from rain delays or the complete abandonment of cricket due to rain. Our own Jazz Festival suffered its first cancellation in its thirteen year history, due to unseasonal, inclement weather. And this past week, we learned of the unfortunate tragedy that befell our sister island of Hispaniola, as a result of torrential rains and floods.
Our Government has already commiserated with the Governments of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, but this flooding comes as a timely reminder that the hurricane season starts on 1st June. I have scheduled a meeting of the National Emergency Management Advisory Committee (NEMAC) on Friday 4th June to receive reports from all committees on our level of preparedness, but I would like to take this opportunity to remind all residents of our island that we must take all necessary precautions to safeguard lives and property during the upcoming season.
Restoration of Courtrooms
I want to end this address by thanking those lawyers and members of the local judiciary who will be involved in the project of restoring the main District Court, the Orientation Room and the Traffic Court in Castries over the next two weekends. This $15,000 project is being financed by the lawyers and judges themselves, who will also be undertaking the work, under the supervision of a local contractor, who is providing his services at minimal cost.
I am pleased to inform you that Government has already allocated funds to complete this restoration, and later this year, the upper floor of the courts will be renovated.
This is a great example of stakeholder cooperation with Government to address a situation that is affecting both parties. We all will benefit from this excellent initiative, and I applaud the Chief Justice and all of those involved.
In closing, I want to thank you for your words of encouragement, admonishment and constructive criticism. Being a Prime Minister has its enjoyable and its disappointing moments, it’s proud and it’s challenging moments, but in all of those I am buoyed by the knowledge that we all are committed to doing what is best for our country and our people. Sometimes, we may have differing opinions on how best to achieve this objective, but when all is said and done our common purpose is the betterment of our nation. I am hopeful that these weekly addresses will provide another avenue to achieve that goal.
I look forward to our next Conversation, and in the meantime, may God continue to bless and protect our great country. I thank you.
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