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Commonwealth Day Message by the Rt. Hon. Sir John Compton - 12 March 2007

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At its independence, Saint Lucia, like many former colonies of the United Kingdom, joined the Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 53 states has a population of nearly 2 billion citizens; this represents about 30 per cent of the world's population. Today, more than any other day, is fittingly appropriate to remind ourselves of the importance of respecting differences and promoting understanding among people as the Commonwealth from its inception in 1965 has been drawing together people from the broadest range of faiths, races, cultures and traditions, providing them with an opportunity for close and equal interaction.

This year’s theme for Commonwealth Day “The Commonwealth: Respecting difference, promoting understanding” is especially pertinent as we witness the terror, discord and suffering that is rampant in our societies with nations, peoples, races and individuals clashing because of differences of one nature or the other. Saint Lucia is not a country of intolerance; neither do we have a culture of promoting misunderstanding. We should proudly keep it that way! This is no easy feat admittedly, but a conscious effort should be made by each and everyone of us to embrace our differences and to find ways to tap into our contrasting attributes and to derive mutual benefits.

The advantages gleaned from Saint Lucia’s membership in the Commonwealth are unfortunately poorly known. While the most well-known of these, the preferential treatment Commonwealth countries accorded each other’s goods on their markets, is no longer in practice, the remaining advantages are numerous.

This association of states has the general aim of promoting professional co-operation among non-governmental organizations in areas like rural development, social welfare, disability, gender relations, arts and culture. Commonwealth education ministers meet every three years to deliberate issues of mutual interest. Developed Commonwealth nations like Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand, provide scholarships for students in developing countries to pursue their post-secondary educations. Various programmes are administered by the Commonwealth Secretariat promoting technical co-operation and training, the establishment of regional youth centres, the sharing of scientific knowledge among member countries as well as the promotion of sports once every four years in the Commonwealth Games. The Commonwealth lends a tremendous amount of support to the concerns of member countries labeled as small and vulnerable economies, to which category saint Lucia belongs. Additionally, the association facilitates the participation of smaller states in international organizations like the United Nations.

Saint Lucia remains steadfastly committed to the ideals of the Commonwealth. Today therefore, as we observe Commonwealth Day 2007, I implore you to remember the strength and resourcefulness that becomes a direct consequence of unity and cooperation. With the impending arrival of thousands of visitors to our shores for World Cup Cricket and with the Region now fully committed to the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME), I take the opportunity now to encourage Saint Lucians to work alongside nationals as well as non-nationals, appropriating a culture of tolerance, helpfulness, understanding and cooperation, all in an effort to promote democracy and the social and economic development of our nation.


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