Throne Speech - First Session of Tenth Parliament 2012
Her Excellency Dame Calliopa Pearlette Louisy
GCSL, GCMG, D.ST.J., PH.D, LL.D (HON)
GOVERNOR GENERAL OF SAINT LUCIA
on the Occasion of the Formal Opening of the First Session of the
Tenth Parliament of Saint Lucia
Thursday, January 05, 2012
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker,
We meet today to open formally the Tenth Parliament of our country, an occasion brought about by the convening of a General Election on the 28th November, 2011. On that day, Saint Lucians, once again, gave expression to their commitment to the finest and highest democratic traditions, enshrined in our Constitution, to freely elect a government on the basis of universal adult suffrage.
While a General Election is primarily contested between political parties and sometimes, independent candidates, the true victor in the 28th November, 2011 General Election was not the victorious political party or the successful candidates; it was the people of Saint Lucia.
The timing of the General Election has caused this First Session of the Tenth Parliament to be short . God willing, we will meet again within the next few months for the presentation of the Budget for the financial year 2012/2013. For that reason, the programmes that my Government will enunciate for this current session will be modest in number, but no less challenging in terms of execution.
A WOUNDED NATION
On such an occasion, and more particularly at the dawn of this new year, we reflect on the events of the recent past which have touched our lives. Some we recall with joy and satisfaction while others conjure sorrow and enduring pain.
On the night of November 10, 2011, an unprecedented tragedy occurred at Morne Sion, Choiseul. We lost nineteen souls, nineteen members of our extended St. Lucian family. In that moment of grief, we cast aside our differences and mourned as one nation. That tragedy is now etched in our memory, never to be forgotten. And, as said elsewhere, those deaths did not belong to the families alone; they belonged to all of us.
It is often in such moments of glory and great sadness that a nation defines itself and manifests its true character. So that our departed brothers and sisters will not be soon forgotten, my Government plans, in remembrance of the victims, to construct a memorial on the site of the tragedy. The families of the victims need to know that this nation shares their loss both in word and in deed.
Misyé Pwézidan, Misyé Spika
Nou vini ansanm jòdi-a pou ouvè dizyenm Paleman péyi-a, apwé ilèksyon novanm lanné pasé-a. Wézulta ilèksyon-sala, sé an laviktwa pa pou pati politik-la ki genyen-an, pa menm pou sé kandida-a ki jòdi-a sé manm Kay Konsit péyi-a, mé pou pèp Sent Lisyen ki moutwé confyans-yo an sé twadisyon denmokwatik péyi-a.
Mé menm kon nou ka ouvè an Paleman nèf, nou ka ouvè an lanné nèf. An lanné ki kay kontiné pwézanté nou épi anchay difikilté épi twakasman, sètènman, mé osi épi anchay posibilité pou konfwonté sé difikilté sala. An palan di difikilté épi twakasman, jik toujou péyi-a ka touvé kò yo dékonpòté apwé mové aksidan-an an Mon Sion ki pwan lavi disnèf pami nou li 10 novanm lanné pasé. Lanmò-yo touché, pa sèlman fanmi yo, mé nou tout. Lapenn-yo sété lapenn nou tout. Pou fè asiwé ki nou pa obliyé yo, pou moutwé fanmi-yo ki nou pa tounen do-nou asou yo, Gouvèdman pwopozé bati an moniman an lonnè-yo an Mon Sion. Moniman-sala kay wépwézanté pou nou tout soufwans épi lèspwa. I kay wépwézanté an péyi ki paka wété atè lè malè fwapé’y, mé ki ka lévé asou dé manm sen’y pou kontiné twavay-la ki ni pou fèt-la.
RE-SHAPING OUR POLITICAL ARCHITECTURE
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker,
My Government believes that the time has come to make peace with our past. To that end, I am pleased to indicate that the Prime Minister has invited me to reactivate Part 2 and in particular, section 15 of the National Honours and Awards Act, Cap.17.08, of the Revised Laws of Saint Lucia, to establish a National Heroes Commission, to begin the process of identifying and honouring our heroes and heroines: those exceptional persons who sacrificed in the great cause of securing the rights and freedoms for our people, who helped to shape the development of our nation, and whose lives of service helped define our national soul and spirit. We will thereby, together as a nation and as a people, celebrate and praise those who served us with nobility, courage and distinction.
As much as we honor those who contributed to shaping our nation, we must also look to the future to correct the aberrations which exist in our political system. It is time to end some of the unnecessary rancor, pettiness and divisiveness that has characterized our political culture.
My Government plans to start with our political parties, the relationship between the governing party and the opposition party.
It is instructive to note that in our Constitution, the position of the Leader of the Opposition falls under the Chapter entitled “The Executive.” The Constitution requires the Prime Minister to consult the Leader of the Opposition in effecting appointments to key institutions of the state. It is clear that our Constitution contemplates that the business of governance is a shared responsibility among government, opposition and citizenry.
Perhaps we will do well to reflect on the statement by the English political philosopher, Disraeli, that “No government can be long secure without a formidable opposition.”
In that vein, my Government believes that we should make a start to redress the wrongs of the past by according the Leader of the Opposition the full rights and privileges, which the office requires, to enable the holder to perform his or her constitutional duties and functions. As such, henceforth the Opposition Leader will be entitled to a Diplomatic Passport as of right and not as of favor. Consistent with the constitutional status of the office, the holder will be provided with an official vehicle to perform the duties of the office in full accordance with rules currently in force for ministerial functionaries. Likewise, the Opposition Leader will be accorded personal security, if he or she so wishes, during his or her tenure of office, as of right and not at the whim of the political directorate.
OVERHAUL OF PARLIAMENTARY PRIVILEGES
My Government also believes that the time has come to undertake a radical overhaul of our parliamentary privileges, practices and traditions enshrined in our Standing Orders. Some of these parliamentary privileges are archaic, unwieldy and inconsistent with our Constitution and with modern parliamentary practice and procedure.
The small size of our Parliament and the pervading tendency to jealously protect political power often mean that Standing Committees of the House of Assembly are dominated by the representatives of the governing party, usually ministers. The demands of ministerial office often make it impossible for ministers to attend meetings of these committees. Likewise, the “Public Accounts Committee” is unable to carry out its mandate to hold the Government accountable for expenditure of taxpayers’ money, because its composition is designed to make it fail. Historically, members of the House of Assembly elect the Leader of the Opposition as chairperson of the committee. We then surround the Leader of the Opposition with a majority of the members of the governing party and promptly starve the committee of resources to enable it to undertake the review of the audit reports, imperfect as these may be.
Another example may help to clarify why we cannot continue with the arrangements we have inherited. When parliamentary infractions occur, it is difficult to obtain a decision that is fair, balanced and objective. Where an infraction is committed by a parliamentarian of the ruling party, it is more likely than not that the member will be exonerated unless the infraction is so blatant that no other conclusion could be reached. Alternatively, if the infraction is committed by an opposition member, it is more likely that an adverse finding ensue. A possible solution is to refer breaches of parliamentary privileges to an independent tribunal of citizens appointed jointly by the government and opposition.
To address these and other related issues my Government intends, with the blessing of Parliament, to overhaul our Standing Orders, consistent with our need for modernity and drawing on best practice observed in other exemplary parliamentary systems.
REFORM OF BUDGETARY PROCESS
Consistent with these views, my Government plans to make a start towards modernizing the work of our parliament by reforming the annual presentation of the Budget. Commencing this Budgetary Cycle, the estimates of Revenue and Expenditure will be laid in Parliament for scrutiny and debate ahead of the presentation of the budgetary policies to underpin the estimates. This will allow parliamentarians to review in detail the allocation of expenditure, both recurrent and capital and to assess the impact of the budget on the economy, various sectors and indeed, their respective constituencies.
Misyé Pwézidan, Misyé Spika,
Si sé pou nou fè pwogwe, si sé pou nou bati asou fondasyon sé sa ki vini avan nou-an kité ban nou an, si sé pou nou apwésyé wichès léwitaj péyi-nou-an, sé fo nou onnowé twavay, kontwibousyon épi sakwifis lézòt, sitou sé moun-lan ki sèvi péyi-a épi noblès, kouwaj épi distenksyon. Sé pou wézon sala Pwèmyé Minis-la ja mandé mwen fè an lòt lèfò pou mété an plas an konmité ki kay idantifyé épi onnowé sé nonm épi sé fanm èksèpsyonnèl-sala ki twavay kò é lam bay péyi-a, pou asiwé épi pou potéjé sé libèté-a épi sé dwa-a nou jan jòdi ka pwan pou lajan kontan. I ni sa ki té fè san sòti an wòch pou mennen nou koté nou yé jodi-a. Péyi-a dwé yo wèspé, wékonésans épi li pli gwan lonnè ki’y pé.
Mé sé pa sèlman sa ki ja mò ében ki ja pwan wétwèt-yo ki méwité wèspé épi koutwazi. I ni sa ki ka wann péyi-a sèvis toujou, ki nou fo twété épi bokou pli dignité épi wèspé pasé sa nou ni labitid ba yo. I ja lè pou nou doubout tout sé tiwé-mété, chikann, pawòl jété, enpolitès, ki ka kawaktéwizé sitou kilti politik péyi-a. Tout mové zimè sala ka détwi péyi-a, ka anpéché’y avansé kon I dwétèt. Sé fo nou di yonnalòt “Atan”. Konsa Gouvèdman ja désidé pou pwan démach pou fè sèten chanjman an mannyè yo kay gouvèné péyi-a.
THE LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker,
The legislative programme of my Government for this ensuing session will, perforce, be modest.
My Government will introduce legislation to establish Constituency Councils throughout the island as a first step to replacing the current system of Local Government. The status of the Castries City Council will be retained, as it embraces several constituencies in the Castries Basin. However, as in Castries prior to December 2006, the positions of chairpersons of the towns of Gros Islet, Vieux Fort and Soufriere will be elevated and the holders conferred with the status of “Mayor,” inclusive of title.
The troubling issue of the licensing and accreditation of universities, whether medical or otherwise, will also be tackled. Successive Governments have recognized that the presence of such universities can help to diversify our economy but some semblance of order needs to be brought to the existing system very quickly as Saint Lucia’s reputation has been compromised and tarnished especially in recent times.
Similarly, the task of rebuilding Saint Lucia’s image as a preferred location for investors must commence immediately. In this economic environment, we cannot tarry. Therefore, the current legislation governing the National Development Corporation will be amended to transform the NDC into the Saint Lucia Investment Promotion Corporation.
As my Government has already promised, The Income Tax Act will also be amended in this session, prior to the presentation of the 2012/2013 Budget, to remove all penalties and interest on outstanding tax liabilities provided that the total principal of the outstanding taxes are settled within a specified period. This initiative will provide local businesses with some much needed financial space. My Government hopes that this will allow resources to be applied to core areas of commercial activity, thereby helping to sustain the job market.
OUR NATIONAL PRIORITIES
The initiatives that I have outlined will be pursued in parallel with our major priorities.
My Government plans to prime the economic pump by stimulating short term employment to the value of E.C.100 million dollars. My Government has to take the lead at this time while the Private Sector is given some breathing space to recover from the debilitating conditions of recent years. My Government hopes to work closely with the Private Sector to bring this initiative to fruition. This investment is intended to bring some relief to the unemployed as my Government pursues more sustainable means of creating new permanent employment.
The second priority of my Government is the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the battered infrastructure of our island. The initiatives of the former Government will be respected and consolidated where necessary, prudent and decidedly in the public interest. My Government will add new impetus and urgency by attracting further assistance from friendly governments, streamlining the approach to the reconstruction process and in particular, directing more targeted relief to the people of Soufriere.
One other priority defines itself. It is the fight to save our banana industry from the ravages of the dreaded Black Sigatoka disease. This is now a national epidemic. This is a fight that can no longer be left to our farmers, acting on their own with the limited financial resources at their disposal. It is a responsibility that falls to the state.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker,
The dream that virtually all St. Lucians share, of owning land and home, owning a piece of our beloved country, cannot be allowed to dwindle in frustration and disappointment. My Government makes a pledge to this nation, to our bright young people, our aspiring professionals, our hard working farmers, our dedicated public officers and members of the protective services, to all citizens, that we will immediately undertake a comprehensive review of the state of housing in this country with a view to undertaking the most aggressive housing development program ever witnessed here.
In this regard, my Government is particularly excited by the possibilities for public-private sector partnerships and intends to outline the appropriate legislative, institutional and financial provisions to make this a reality.
Misyè Pwèzidan, Misyè Spika,
Piski an dézyenm sèsyon Paleman kay tjenn an dé ében twa mwa ki ka vini pou pwézanté bidjé péyi-a pou 2012-2013, Gouvèdman pa kay pwopozé anchay lwa nèf an sèsyon sala. Mé anatandan, i ka pwopozé an lwa pou établi sa pou limouman nou kay kwiyé “Contituency Councils” pou wanplasé sa nou té ni-an an sé vil épi sé vilaj péyi-a. Pwézidan sé Konsey-la an vil Go Zilé, Soufouyè épi Vyé Fò kay pòté tit “Mè” (Mayor an anglé) menm kon Pwèzidan Konsèy vil Kastwi. La kay ni osi pli vit ki posib chanjman an lwa-a ki ka wéglé NDC-a pou pèmèt li fasilité envèstisman an péyi-a.
Paditan sé démach sala ka pwan kou, Gouvedman-mwen ni lantansyon envesti yon san milyon dòla pou mété twavay an péyi-a. Pou enplimanté pojé sala, I ka pwopozé twavay épi jan biznis péyi-a pou pòté an ti soulajman bay moun ki pa ka twavay, an menm tan I ka éséyé touvé lòt mannèv pou mennen antwé twavay ki pli diwab.
Dézyenm pwiowité Gouvedman an sé mwa-a ki ka vini-an sé pou wékonstwi épi wéhabilité péyi-a apwé déga-a Tomas annékòz-la. Gouvedman kay kontiné adan sé démach-la dènyé Gouvèdman-an té koumansé-a, me I kay éséyé mennen antwé pli asistans hòd gouvèdman lòt péyi, épi pòté pli soulajman bay sé jan Soufouyè-a.
Plantè fig tout oliwon Sent Lisi ozabwa épi maladi Black Sigatoga-a ki ka mennasé lendustwi agwikòl péyi-a. Gouvèdman kay mété lanmen pou amennajé lépidenmi sala.
FACING THE WORLD
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker,
It is an inescapable fact that from the perspective of small countries like our own, Saint Lucia now faces a world situation that has substantially worsened over the last six years or so. The international economic climate shows few signs of active recovery. In North America and within the European Union, major economic powers are struggling to maintain even minimal rates of growth and reasonable employment levels. Every Saint Lucian knows that these difficulties have had a major effect on our own economy. In the tourism sector, visitor arrival levels remain less than satisfactory and the levels of remittances from Saint Lucians abroad has tapered dramatically.
In addition, it is very apparent that levels of investment in our country have not been vibrant. This has prevented us from maintaining the rates of economic growth that once characterized our country. My Government, therefore, intends to redouble its efforts to enhance the visibility of Saint Lucia on the international map. Even in this challenging period, my Government believes that we can attract global attention and rebuild investor confidence to rekindle economic growth. This is vital to sustain the social and economic investment that our country requires for the continuing enhancement of the welfare of our people.
My Government will also redesign the operations of its Foreign Missions so that they play a greater role in international trade facilitation and investment promotion. Our goal will be to use the resources at our disposal in the most efficient and effective manner possible. These initiatives are also intended to facilitate job creation, which will be the number one priority of my Government.
The international political climate does not give us reason for great optimism either. The ongoing turmoil in the Middle East signals protracted volatility in oil prices, which has serious implications for our domestic economy. My Government is hopeful that diplomatic interventions in that region will support a smoother transition to participatory democracy and thus, political tranquility.
My Government has noted the increasing interest in the Caribbean being demonstrated by countries in this hemisphere. My Government particularly welcomes the establishment of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which positions our Eastern Caribbean states alongside larger powers in Latin America, particularly those who have been showing interest in assisting our economic development. My Government will make efforts to reciprocate this interest to the benefit of our country but not be at the expense of our traditional friends and allies.
All of this provides further proof that international relations are as fluid and dynamic as they have ever been. This is why it has become necessary for my Government to take stock of these issues and calmly review our country’s external relations policy to ensure that it is synchronized with our goals and aspirations as a small developing state. Therefore, my Government has established a Committee to undertake a comprehensive review of our external relations policy, with a view toward making recommendations to the Cabinet of Ministers on an alignment that is more sensitive to present day realities.
As regards the Caribbean Community, it is no secret that there is, among the people of our region, a growing sense that the Community is comatose. The collapse of some major regional financial institutions has not helped to relieve that sense of pessimism about our Community’s future. Saint Lucia has, as its first priority, the advancement of the newly created OECS Economic Union, an initiative which my Government fully endorses. In that context, my Government shall seek to strengthen the cohesion of the OECS so as to permit a more forceful collective effort to advance progress on the wider Caribbean Community front.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker,
An immediate priority of my Government will be to improve the manner in which we do business in the public service. My Government set the tone for this with the realignment of portfolios in the configuration of the Cabinet. The old way of doing things cannot work in this new, technologically-driven, hyper-linked, customer-focused world. So, from my Government’s very first working day, it started the process of transforming the delivery of public services. My Government will continue this process in this session of Parliament with the introduction of the first set of measures designed to improve public access to government services, thus making interaction of Government to Citizens (G2C), Government to Business (G2B), and Citizens to Government (C2G), considerably more efficient and effective.
For decades, the public has had to live with the 2 p.m. closure of revenue collection by Government agencies. Almost every frequent user of the Public Service can tell an unflattering story about the inconvenience they have suffered as a result of this mid-afternoon shut down. While there may have been a very valid reason for this in the past, we cannot continue to justify this cut-off point in this modern era. In an age when people can purchase items online in virtually every corner of the globe, twenty-four hours a day, the custom of closing revenue collection at 2.00 p.m. defies logic and best practice.
Therefore, in this Session of Parliament, my Government intends to extend the hours of opening of Government Revenue Agencies to 3.00 p.m. in the first instance. This adjustment will be closely monitored and if it becomes necessary, will make further adjustments in due course.
My Government also intends to make it possible for citizens and businesses to use credit and debit cards to pay for Government services. There will be many benefits from this initiative, but two immediately stand out. First of all, it will provide greater convenience for the users of public services. No longer will they have to walk around with cash or pre-approved cheques to make payments for things like Driver’s Licenses, or to clear dutiable items from Customs and Excise. Secondly, it will significantly reduce the potential for fraudulent transactions, particularly those due to the issuance of dishonoured cheques.
At the level of the Cabinet of Ministers, my Government will embark on several important initiatives to improve the manner in which the Government’s highest executive authority operates. The first of these will be the implementation of a Ministerial Code of Conduct that will set out parameters within which our government ministers must operate.
Similarly, my Government will adopt a Manual of Cabinet Procedures that will clearly define modalities for the conduct of the business of Cabinet, the preparation of Cabinet Papers, the need for inter-ministerial consultation, and the appointment and use of Cabinet sub-committees. The intention here will be two-fold: to improve the efficiency of the operations of Cabinet and to ensure that the highest standards of governance and personal behavior become synonymous with the work of the executive arm of government.
My Government is anxious to expand the avenues that government has for interacting with the citizenry. As I stated earlier, our Constitution envisions an important role for citizens in managing the business of government. As a first step toward this, my Government will redesign and improve the government Web Portal to make it more dynamic and, among other things, make it possible for social media to be used for the dissemination of official government information and for interactions between the public and government officials. This will start with a complete redesign of the official Saint Lucia Government web site. My Government sees these measures as particularly important for allowing our young people to become more engaged in the governance of our country.
The final measure that my Government will implement in this short session of Parliament will be to allow for electronic submissions by Ministries to Cabinet. This is consistent with my e-Government’s agenda and will provide further proof of the serious commitment of my Government to modernizing the way in which our Public Service operates.
Misyé Pwézidan, Misyé Spika
Pwojé dévlopman péyi-a ni dé fasad: yon fasad nasyonal épi yon fasad entènasyonal. Nou tout sav sitwasyon ékonomik entènasyonal-la gwav sèyèzman. Sa ka fè’y pli an pli difisil pou ti péyi kon Sent Lisi. Sé pou wézon sala Gouvèdman ka ankouwajé tout pwogwam épi pojé wéjonal ki pé fasilité dévlopman nasyonal-nou: kon Caricom, OECS, ében asosiasyon sé péyi Kawaib-la épi sé péyi Améwik Latin-lan. Mé I ni an chay chanjman ki ni pou fèt an sèvis piblik péyi-a pou mété nou an pozisyon pou pwan lavantaj sé dévlopman–an ki kay pwézanté kò yo, isi, osi byen kon lòt péyi.
Mé Misyé Pwézidan, Misyé Spika, péyi-nou an ni an listwa èkstwaòdinè. Nou ni anchay talan, anchay détèminasyon. Nou paka kité twakasman métwizé nou. Si nou tonbé nou paka wété atè twò lontan. Nou ka lévé kò-nou, nou ka sanglé wen-nou épi nou ka kontiné. Sé pou sé wézon sala Gouvèdman-mwen-an ni konfyans-lan ki péyi-a kay sòti anba tan wèd-la nou adan-an pli fò, pli dinanmik. Sèl sa I fo , sé pou nou tout twavay ansanm, épi yonnalòt, menm si nou ni diféwans politik-nou, pou bati an mèyè Sent Lisi pou kò-nou épi pou sé jénéwasyon-an ki ka vini-an.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker,
The road ahead of us is challenging and will require strategic thinking, prudent use of our resources, agile maneuvering, and a total Team Saint Lucia effort.
We are an island nation with an extraordinary history. We are a people with unlimited talent, determination and noble potential. We all have within us that indescribable power to overcome, to shine and to inspire. We remain a nation with astounding possibilities.
For these reasons, my Government believes that we will emerge from this period a stronger, more resilient and successful nation. It only requires that we work together, each with the other, irrespective of political faith and commitment, to build a better Saint Lucia for this and future generations.
This having been said, it now gives me great pleasure to open the First Session of the Tenth Parliament of Saint Lucia.
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