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Address by the Honorable Prime Minister to the 15th Annual Dinner and Dance Celebration of the St. Lucia Association of South...

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The 15th Annual Dinner and Dance Celebration of the St. Lucia Association of South Florida, Inc on

December 9, 2000

Knights of Columbus, Hialeah, Florida


Mr Chairman,

St. Lucians Resident in Florida,

Other Ladies and Gentlemen,

Other invited Guests,

Madame ek Misye,

Fwe ek Se,

Toot Moon,


Jou-a wive. Mwen wive, wou wive, nou-tout wive.

The Honourable Derek Walcott spoke for all of us St. Lucians when he wrote those simple but profound lines in one of his poems : "Mwe se jan Sent Lisi. Se la mwen soti. Is there that I born."

Pou tout jan Sent Lisi, isi-a jodi-a, mwen ka di, byen vini, byen vini, ek anko, byen vini. Mwen kontan pou wer zot. Mwen kwer ou-mem kontan pou jwen epi nou ici en Florida oswer-a. Ou sa di’y encore: Nou se jan Sent Lisi. Se la nou tout soti. Is there we born."

Greetings From Home

Fellow St. Lucians,

Mamai Ste Lisi,

I bring you greetings from all our people back home, from your mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, children and grand children, cousins and friends. I also bring you greeting from my entire Cabinet and the Government of St. Lucia.

Let me assure you that the people and Government of St. Lucia recognize and respect the tremendous contribution that you and other St. Lucians overseas have always made to our homeland. Your association and others in other parts of the world have over many years stood as pillars of strength for St. Lucians at home and abroad. Let me take this opportunity, on behalf of the government and all the people of St. Lucia, to thank you most sincerely for all the help you have given to us, especially during the period of recovery from natural disasters.

Maintaining Close Contact

There are some very distinguished and special friends of St. Lucia whom I wish to recognise tonight.

May I acknowledge and welcome a delegation from West Palm Beach and other parts of Palm Beach County, who have come here to be with us tonight as we move towards establishing twin city ties with the Palm Beaches for our Independence next year.

A delegation from that part of Florida visited St. Lucia earlier in the year to explore investment possibilities. That delegation was led by Mr Al Zucarro, who (as you heard earlier) is President of the West Palm Beach City Commission and of the World Trade Centre of Palm Beach, as well as the Deputy Mayor of West Palm Beach. We remain in touch with the World Trade Centre Palm Beach and the City Commission to help strengthen and expand the bridges built by that delegation. We also acknowledge the presence of Mrs Maria Zucarro (who, with her husband received the keys to the City of Castries from our Mayor when they visited earlier this year); and Mrs Suzanne Turner of the World Trade Centre, who worked so hard to get that delegation of over a dozen potential investors to St. Lucia.

There is, also, a special delegation from Tropical Shipping, which is a regular caller to St. Lucia and which also has its headquarters in West Palm Beach. In fact, our Commerce Minister Philip J. Pierre -- who was here for a few days to attend the annual Miami Caribbean Business Conference -- met with a top delegation from Tropical Shipping yesterday. They discussed proposals the company has for improving and expanding its business in St. Lucia. My information is that that meeting went very well and both sides have agreed to follow-up. A Tropical Shipping delegation is also here with us tonight and we acknowledge their presence.

Also present tonight is a delegation from Carib Link, led by Mrs Janie Mc Gra, who has also visited St. Lucia on investment missions and continues to promote investment in our country. Also at that table is Mrs Kip Milner, who also continues to work tirelessly to encourage and promote investment by Floridians in St. Lucia.

Not present tonight is someone who has been very helpful behind the scenes, someone who has rallied to our cause whenever asked – and even when not asked. She has helped in innumerable ways and it is only fitting that, in her absence, we will acknowledge and say thanks for all the help she has given so far. This is someone who wishes to remain invisible for the time being, but since transparency is a major plank of our policy as a government, I must tell you that the person I speak of is none other than the actress, Diane Cantone.

Final on my list tonight of those deserving special mention, I want to acknowledge the positive role that has been played -- and continues to be played -- by Daniel Louis. This St. Lucian national residing in West Palm Beach worked hard to initiate and establish our links with that part of Florida and he continues to do so. Thanks again, Daniel.

Interesting Times…

Apart from all the other reasons I have for being here tonight, I am also excited at the fact that the state of Florida is making history as it commands the attention of the rest of the world. So amazing is the democracy in this the mightiest country on earth that a month after some you have voted for who would be the most powerful man on earth, the votes still cannot be fully counted. The count, the recount and the recount of the recount have still to this day failed to determine who occupy the White House. Just imagine that this great democracy I unable to properly count electoral votes. There are lessons for all of us.

We from the little rock that has produced the only two Nobel Prize laureates from the English-speaking Caribbean can offer a lesson or two in democracy. We can teach how to count all of the votes cast and announce the results in one day so that life can continue the next day. Our elections produce winners. We have no margins of error. Our victories and losses are decisive. It’s either 16-1 or 9-8. And if it’s 9-8, we go back to the polls. Truly, small is beautiful.

Fellow St. Lucians,

Mamai La-caye,

We are reaching out to you, wherever you are and that is the type of spirit we want to encourage on your part. We recently moved to secure a building used by St. Lucians in New York that was about to be seized for payment of taxes. We were criticized by those who don’t understand the value of having a meeting place or the value of your contribution to our development. But we matched what they had, paid to save the building, and now it is the property of the people of St. Lucia in New York. They now enjoy the full diplomatic privileges that come with such ownership. We have made a similar step in London, where we have purchased the building jointly with Dominica – to house our High Commission. This is but one of the ways in which we have shown how serious we are about our St. Lucians overseas. We will continue to offer all we can. We will continue to do all we can because we know the value of your work, of your very existence. We will do all we can to encourage you.

Linking With The Black Caucus

Many people underestimate the value of associations such as yours. This was made very clear to me during a recent meeting in Jamaica between Caribbean Leaders and members of the US Congressional Black Caucus. The Black Caucus was amazed at our reluctance to call on them for support with the day-to-day issues

Which emerge with our relations with the United States. They impressed upon us that they occupied critical decision-making positions and that they could help us resolve our major disagreements with the US, from bananas to the question of our offshore banking sector. I share a similar view about the importance of our overseas associations. In particular, I see much significance in the fact that you live in a country that’s the richest and most powerful in the world. It is only the most blind and short-sighted who would fail to appreciate the role which organisations such as yours can play in our development process. I therefore wan to stress my support for your organisation and to pledge to work with you for the development of St. Lucia and St. Lucians, at home and abroad.

Our Vision For St. Lucia

Le me continue by sharing with you our vision for our homeland.

As I said to the large crowd of overseas-based St. Lucians representing associations like yours when they gathered home last July, it seems to me that we need, more than ever before, a sense of national consciousness. Not just a superficial ‘Looshan’ feeling, made up of sentimental emotionalism. Not just a meaningless ‘Looshan’ nationalism. Such an empty nationalism denies us of our fundamental place at the heart of the Caribbean region, and is the source of destructive prejudices against our Caribbean brothers and sisters.

What we need is a positive, constructive and creative sense of ourselves as a nation, responsible for ourselves. This consciousness (of ourselves as a nation) must of course be based on the objective knowledge of our history, our culture and our real achievements. It should also be based on a realistic assessment of our strengths and of our weaknesses.

That understanding of ourselves as a nation rests on the full realization that we are expected to work very hard for whatever we want. The key word in the modern world today is competition. No one owes us anything. We are expected to pay our way through life. The advantage we gain and create for ourselves – individually and as a nation – will rest in our dynamism, in our seriousness, in our quality of work, in the quality of our planning and in the quality of the service we offer. But we must also cultivate an optimism and a confidence that we can achieve the best for ourselves, for our people and for our country. We have to connect constructive thinking to wise planning, creative partnerships, and (always) a willingness to work well and hard at whatever we undertake.

If we are to survive in the new, uncaring world, we must hold hands wherever we may be. We too at home need to be more sensitive and responsive to your needs.

Easing the Burden for Returning Nationals

Many of you have rightly complained about the amount of time, energy and resources that is exerted when you try to do business at home. Those of you who have returned home, or are thinking of returning home, have experienced disillusionment and disappointment as you come face to face with certain attitudes and approaches to service. I assure you that we are aware of these frustrating problems, and we are committed to bringing radical change to these areas.

We have already sought to make life easier for our deserving returning nationals. St. Lucians who have resided abroad for ten or more years and return home to settle are allowed to bring household personal items, including a car, duty free.

For those of you who have worked long and hard overseas and are thinking of investing your life savings or your special investment or retirement funds, our National Development Corporation is moving towards finally becoming a one-stop institution. The days when you walked with increasing frustration from one office to another, just to get a form, or a simple reply to a query, will come to an end.

Christmas Barrels Policy Continuing

You will also know of the incentives we have put in place for Christmas barrels that you will send back home, with an amnesty on all taxes and duties for an entire two-month period. We began this arrangement in 1998 and, despite the fact that it cost us almost a million dollars in tax collections last year, Cabinet has again agreed to continue the policy this year. We are a government that feels for our people. That is why we will make this sacrifice so that more of our people can have a better Christmas back home because of what you and others like you will be able to send them from abroad.

The role of government, as we see it, is to facilitate the people – including you over here -- to ensure that you and your associations have the means of manoeuvering, the means of assisting, the means of making every possible contribution in every possible area of national development at home.

An Impressive Ceremony

I take this opportunity to reiterate our government and our people’s recognition and support for your efforts, our appreciation of your work in promoting our country overseas and in assisting our nationals abroad. I also thank you specially for your efforts in organizing this impressive ceremony tonight. I also take this opportunity to reassure you of our highest considerations as our overseas ambassadors, in whom we are well pleased.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Brothers and Sisters,

Fellow St. Lucians,

Gens Ste Lisi,

Back home, there’s a popular song making the rounds that says: "Doh eat an’ lie-dong." I have no doubt that there will be no need to sing this song tonight, because there is no way we goin’ to lie-dong after this sumptuous dinner. I don’t know for you, but I tonight, intend to keep up the reputation we have built at home and abroad over the years, that "Nobody could fete like Lucians!" Let the Party begin!

December 9, 2000


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