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Government of Saint Lucia

 Emancipation Day - August 1, 2004

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Address to the Nation
Hon. Menissa Rambally
Minister for Social Transformation and Culture

On Emancipation Day

August 1, 2004

My fellow Saint Lucians, this Emancipation Day is being celebrated in our country under the theme – A Rediscovery of our Saint Lucianness. This choice of theme was deliberate, as it is meant to demonstrate that while like so many others, we in Saint Lucia have walked a long and proud distance since that historic day when our fore-parents were freed from physical bondage, the journey for us has been a unique one, shaped by circumstances and conditions different to those of other countries. What have emerged, in the process, are an identity, heritage and culture that are distinctly Saint Lucian, and which have allowed us not just to survive, but to succeed.

Therefore, as we celebrate this historic day in the lives of our people, let us pause to reflect on the values and attributes that caused our ancestors to fight and struggle so relentlessly for their freedom against an unjust and inhumane system, and which ideals and characteristics must continue to shape our responses to the challenges confronting us as a young, developing nation.

The Values of our Ancestors

Our forefathers refused to accept the philosophy that the colour of their skin pre-determined that they were destined to live out their lives as hapless beasts of burden. They rejected the tenet that their place in life was to serve as units of production in a system whose sole purpose was to accumulate wealth to be used for the further subjugation of people of colour. And they repudiated the doctrine that fate and the Gods had somehow conspired to deny them any rights to determine how they lived, where they lived, why they lived, and even for how long they lived, given that their lives could be easily terminated at any moment by an ill-tempered or disgruntled slave owner.

Our ancestors, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and obstacles, fought for and earned the right to be considered as human beings. And when the British Parliament ordered the abolition of slavery in the British colonies by August 1, 1834, the first part of our journey as free people started. This was the beginning of a journey that would eventually allow a new nation to emerge and develop – a free Saint Lucia.

The Start of a Journey

Emancipation, however, though the start of a new passage, was not the end of the voyage. While it signalled the closure of one of the most undignified and dehumanizing chapters in the history of mankind, it heralded a new dawn that would permit us to take the first tentative steps in the journey from chattel to citizen. Emancipation opened the door that would allow the children of those who had toiled thanklessly and often violently from sunrise to sunset to become the masters of their own destinies, and the sovereign lords of their own independent state. It facilitated the evolution of the sons and daughters of our proud and noble fore-parents, who for decades had been stripped of their dignity and denied their humanity, into world citizens - thinkers capable of capturing the highest recognition for their ideas, logic and creativity.

That metamorphosis has seen our country and our people go through stages that took us from slave territory to colony to Associated State to finally, twenty-five years ago, independent nation. During that time, various Saint Lucians have helped to shape our culture and our identity.

Our Achievements on the World Stage

In the space of one hundred and seventy years, we have evolved into a country that has produced two Nobel laureates, deemed by international experts as being not just among the best in their respective fields in the world, but as having made a significant contribution to the development of world civilization. We have witnessed the elevation of one of our sons to the position of President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the body that was established in 1945 to promote world peace, protect fundamental human rights, and encourage social progress and better standards of life. One of our landmarks has been designated a World Heritage Site, and just recently, our country was selected as a venue for the third largest sporting event in the world, to serve as the host for the country that for years laid title to us - England.

So you see, brothers and sisters, there is much for which we must be thankful and celebrate. Our walk has been a productive and proud one, and our country and people have truly taken their rightful place among the nations and citizens of the world.

Worrying Trends

However, we must also be concerned at the erosion of many of the values for which our ancestors stood, and which underpinned much of the progress that we have made thus far. We are beginning to see a deterioration of civic responsibility and a growing selfishness that are gnawing away at the social fabric of our nation. No longer are we taking collective responsibility for our development, but tending instead to cater to narrow self-interests and aggrandizement.

We see some among us falling for the trap of get-rich-at-all-costs activities and eschewing the characteristics of hard work, discipline, dedication, respect and loyalty that our forefathers espoused in building our nation.

Instead of resolving our conflicts in the peaceful and deliberate manner to which we were accustomed, some of us, and alarmingly, many among our youth, are resorting to violence to settle differences of opinion.

The common courtesies that we were taught as children and previously extended automatically to each other are now being replaced by rudeness, disrespect and ridicule, even towards the older, the less fortunate and the less abled among us.

Rediscovering our Saint Lucian Soul

This is why, my fellow Saint Lucians, my message this year is a simple, but I believe, important one. We need to rediscover our Saint Lucianness - those traits and the features that made us a courteous, respectful, disciplined, law-abiding, industrious, and patriotic people. All of the gains that we have made since our physical emancipation will be destroyed if we do not truly free ourselves of the negative values that some of us now practice.

There is so much for which we can be proud, and in less than three years time the eyes of the world will be focused on our country, as we seek to redefine ourselves once again and start to make the transition from developing to developed country status. But this transition is as much about emotional, social and attitudinal growth as it is about economic and financial development. Let us use this Emancipation Day celebration to recommit ourselves to the strong positive and righteous values that made us what we are, while using today’s technologies and opportunities to help us develop into what we know we can be – a proud, industrious, respected, viable and admired nation.

My fellow Saint Lucians, I wish you a joyous, dignified and peaceful Emancipation Day.



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