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Statement on Change in Plans for Independence Day 2000

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Fellow Saint Lucians, my brothers and my sisters.

At this time we should have been at the Mindoo Phillip Park, ushering our birthday anniversary, but the weather has decided otherwise. Sometimes, things happen that we do not understand. Tonight is one of those nights. I want to bring you up to date on the situation, which currently exists on the island.

I understand that the road between Anse La Raye and Soufriere and between Soufriere and Choiseul is not motorable. Several landslides have occurred and as a result motorists as well as school children are stranded. Because of the situation that confronts us, police officers who were expected to participate in the parade tomorrow have had to be re-deployed to assist certain communities. In fact, many of them who were expected to be present have also been stranded and cannot arrive in Castries tonight, for tomorrow’s parade.

But there has also been some bad news. By now, many of you would have heard there was an accident on the Millennium Highway and several school children were hurt. Many of them are now at Victoria Hospital where they are being treated by the staff of the hospital.  On behalf of the government I wish to extend our deep concern to the parents and relatives of the children who were hurt in the very unfortunate accident.  I understand that officials of the Ministry of Education are at this time at the hospital to assess the extent of the injuries which the children have suffered.

I met officials of the local Disaster Preparedness Office earlier this evening. A Meteorological Official who is a member of the Disaster Preparedness Committee has indicated that the system presently affecting Saint Lucia is virtually stationary. There is some indication that the weather will improve later tonight but there is also the possibility that we will continue to experience heavy rains some time tomorrow afternoon. We discussed the situation and all felt that the conditions which I have just described are not conditions for us to celebrate. In the circumstances, I cannot allow the celebrations tomorrow. Consequently I have instructed that the Military Parade and the schools’ rally scheduled for tomorrow morning be cancelled. Frankly in these circumstances, I think it would be unwise to invite our school children to participate in a rally when further inclemency of the weather looms. In addition to this I have postponed the Independence Reception originally scheduled for the official residence of the Prime Minister, tomorrow evening.  

This has been a difficult decision but I am of the view that our energies would be better spent tomorrow seeking to return our country to normalcy. This decision will affect not only our school children and all of you who looked forward to tomorrow but also many of our guests, for example US Military personnel, Regional Security System personnel, French Military personnel and other persons representing their individual countries. I regret this, but I hope they can understand the circumstances that confront us.

As I indicated earlier, tomorrow we shall seek to clear our roads and restore life to normalcy. I have also instructed that Disaster Committees be activated in all communities to cope with any eventuality. The Office of Disaster Preparedness will expect to receive reports and respond to emergencies. Of course I do not wish you to exaggerate these measures, but we have to be prepared at all times.

School children who are stranded in Castries should report to the Central Police Station. Of course, many of them may not hear this short statement, so I have dispatched a committee, together with police officers, to contact them. The Red Cross has agreed to assist them for the evening and arrangements will be made to contact their parents if it is necessary for them to spend the night in Castries.

I know that many will be disappointed by this decision. I know that many looked forward not only to the event tonight but also tomorrow’s military parade. I believe it would be possible for us to reschedule some of the major events for Sunday, God willing, and weather permitting. I hope you will agree that the present circumstances do justify these decisions. I have to tell you that the welfare of the people of Saint Lucia at this time is my primary concern and I think that these circumstances fully justify those decisions, but I hope we can make it up to you as indicated on Sunday.

I thank you and good night to all of you.



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