Independence Day Address 2002
“Facing the Challenge with Dignity and Pride”
Message by Prime Minister Dr. Kenny D. Anthony
For the 23rd Anniversary of the Independence of Saint Lucia
February 22nd 2002
My Fellow Saint Lucians,
One of the significant features of the independence experience of the Caribbean was the relative calm and peace which defined the process through which we gained our sovereignty. Whilst other parts of the colonial world such as Africa for example, were forced to engage in long and protracted military conflicts to gain their political freedom, Caribbean people attained their freedom by means of negotiation, peaceful protest, dialogue and compromise.
Whilst this historical reality may have helped to shape our consciousness as a democratic, freedom-loving and peaceful people, it has nevertheless rendered many of us incapable of appreciating the sacrifices through which independence is won and ultimately defended. Defending independence is a never-ending task which calls for great sacrifices at critical periods in the history of peoples who cherish their freedom and sovereignty.
The theme under which we celebrate our 23rd Anniversary as an independent nation is meant to serve as a reminder that this is a time of sacrifice. This year, we are called upon to “Face the Challenge with Dignity and Pride”. This is a loud testimony to where we are at present, as a country and as a people. Equally, it is a telling statement of the conditions under which we are currently seeking to survive. We must not under-estimate the urgency and relevance of that message.
It is no exaggeration to suggest that this is one of the most difficult periods which we have had to confront as a free and independent people. The dark shadow of economic recession has spread throughout the entire global economy. Since September 11th global output in tourism, the highest foreign exchange earner for Saint Lucia, has declined by 20%.
These economic stresses have been compounded by corresponding political developments which have added to the challenges faced by our fragile but proud independence. Indeed, whilst countries such as ours continue to be concerned with the daily task of economic survival, the main pre-occupation of the dominant world powers is to win the fight against terrorism.
For Saint Lucia, the impact of these developments has been traumatic. Indeed prior to September 11th, our banana industry has had to struggle against a range of adverse factors - from the challenge to the protection for our markets, to the most devastating drought in the past forty years. It is one of the saddest ironies of our time that the tourism industry which, for some time, had been the answer to the problems of the banana industry, was the sector which was most directly affected by September 11th and its aftermath. Further compounding our problems, is the expectation that aid from the developed world to the Caribbean will be diverted to the economic and political rehabilitation of Afghanistan. Our resolve as an independent people is truly being tested!
Despite the burdens and challenges of these times, I am emboldened by the capacity of Saint Lucia and the Caribbean to survive. Every Caribbean person is a living testimony to the ability of our ancestors to survive some of the most horrific wars of conquest and enslavement ever waged by man against man. This capacity of our people not only to survive, but excel in the face of adversity, has been demonstrated most clearly in the persons of our “twin peaks of excellence”, Sir Arthur Lewis and Honourable Derek Walcott, Nobel laureates in Economics and English Literature respectively. Their achievements are not historical accidents, but instead stand as hard evidence of the full creativity, talent and intellectual strength of our people. It is my firm belief that these adverse times will transform us into an even more successful, creative, industrious and productive people than we have demonstrated thus far.
It is for this reason that I call on all Saint Lucians to face the challenges with dignity and pride. This is not a suggestion that we should under-estimate the magnitude of the difficulties which lie ahead. Instead, it is a confident acknowledgement that we can survive and prosper as a people.
Indeed, over the past few months my confidence in the Saint Lucian people has been validated many times over. I have been heartened by the many hoteliers who continue to invest in the tourism product and who have striven tirelessly to make the necessary business adjustments to the prevailing conditions. I have also seen a similar demonstration of business acumen on the part of some of our oldest business establishments in the traditional retail sector. The recent efforts by our banana farmers to replant their fields, and to take advantage of the wet conditions with which we have been blessed, has also inspired and encouraged me.
These acts of dignity, pride and quiet resolve must be sustained and internalized to meet the even greater challenges which lie ahead. I have full confidence that we can make the necessary adjustments as a country and as a people.
I wish everyone a restful and reflective independence and stand ready to work alongside all Saint Lucians as we confront the challenges as a united and determined people.
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