Prime Minister's Address on the Occasion of the 22nd Anniversary of the Independence of Saint Lucia - February 22, 2001
Respect, Tolerance, and Togetherness:
Strengthening Independence from Within
Address to the Nation by the Honourable Dr. Kenny D. Anthony
on the Occasion of the
22nd Anniversary of the Independence of St. Lucia
Good Evening my fellow St. Lucians,
Twenty-two years ago we took the courageous step to join the world family of nations as a free and independent people. This decision signalled our desire to break free from the shackles of external control, and it afforded us the opportunity to govern ourselves, and allowed the St. Lucian people to determine their own destiny.
However, this cherished independence entailed more than breaking free from British rule. It marked our intention to forge a united St. Lucian national consciousness that would strengthen us as we faced the many challenges of the brave new world we had chosen to enter.
The need for a national consciousness emphasising the unity and brotherhood of our people has long been a cherished dream of many St. Lucians. It is a dream eloquently expressed in the words of our national anthem, which calls on all St. Lucians to:
Our national anthem also encourages us to make the ideals of Justice, Truth and Charity our guiding principles as we continue to embrace the heavy mantle of independence.
After twenty-two years of independence, we continue to see the need for a consciousness in which the values of unity, respect, tolerance, and justice hold a central place. Whilst we have demonstrated our capacity to live and survive free from external control, we are reminded almost daily that our internal social relations need to be re-examined, if we are to develop a stronger sense of national purpose and to make a firmer statement on our national character.
The evidence is everywhere around us. We see it in the apathy and aimlessness of our youth. We see it in the growing acts of religious and cultural intolerance. And we see it in the ever more frequent instances of crime and violence in our society. Indeed, many of our young people now prefer the quick and easy attractions of the drug trade to the demands of hard, honest work and self application which more legitimate routes to success require. We also see it in the indifference by the fortunate, to the suffering and pain of the poor.
As we enter a new cycle of self-reflection on our sovereignty and statehood, the watchwords of Respect, Tolerance and Togetherness must underpin our internal social relations. Whilst we remain mindful of the words of our national anthem, we need to be vigilant against the domination of the "strength of arm" over the "strength of soul". We must curb our tendencies towards violence and anger against persons who do not share our views and perspectives.
The attack against the worshippers at the Roman Catholic Church on the morning of December 31st 2000 is a shame. As we recover from the pain and shock of this incident, it is important that we learn the relevant lessons from it, and make the internal adjustments to ensure that such a tragedy is not revisited on our society in the future.
In calling for the ideals of Respect, Tolerance and Togetherness to occupy a central place in our consciousness, we are in effect re-asserting the old values that have been central to our culture. When Saint Lucia became an independent nation she remained committed to strengthening the ideals of religious tolerance, racial harmony and community togetherness, which were recognised globally as fundamental features of Caribbean political culture.
Whilst other parts of the world were ridden with racial strife and torn by religious bigotry and intolerance, our region continued to remain faithful to the ideals that recognized a place for every creed and a home for every race. These ideals were fundamental to our nationalist experience, and many of our heroes died in the pursuit of these ideals.
It is troubling to see the steady erosion of the old values, which in the past, held our society together. As we grow increasingly concerned with material comforts and individual self-advancement, we have allowed ourselves to become numb to the sufferings of our fellow human beings. Our old focus on community is now being replaced by our preoccupation of self.
One of the most urgent political and social challenges of today is to develop a consciousness which places respect for our fellow St. Lucians and indeed all humanity at the centre of our thinking. Central to this new consciousness is the need for greater tolerance of the differences and diversities that make up the St. Lucian social landscape. We must learn to celebrate and benefit from such diversity rather than to resist and combat it.
If this generation fails in this task, it may very well witness the erosion of the tremendous social gains that we have made in the last twenty-two years. Already the West Indies cricket team is showing signs of such reversal and decline. We stand on the edge of a terrible social tragedy, and we will all be condemned by future generations if we do not move quickly and decisively to halt this slide into social decay and anarchy.
The need to reconnect with our traditional moral values as a buffer against internal social decay should become central to our idea of independence. Just as it is important to defend the sovereign state against external attack and destabilisation, so it is important for us to be vigilant against the forces which can undermine our society from within. The banner of Respect, Tolerance and Togetherness must therefore be seen as the first line of defence of our sovereignty.
It will be impossible to enjoy the fruits of economic growth and physical development without an accompanying civility, humanity and spirituality guiding our social relations. Recent developments in our tourism industry indicate clearly the manner in which our economic development efforts can be derailed by our failure to develop a culture of civility, non-violence and respect. I therefore urge all St. Lucians to strengthen the habits of Respect, Tolerance and Togetherness as we continue to build on the foundations laid by previous generations.
The challenges that we face in the future demand that we present a strong united front to the world. Our inability to put aside petty political differences in periods where our national interests come under threat is one of the important differences between our people and our Caribbean neighbours. Our country must come before self. How often have we preached that the country’s national values must be instilled in the young to enable them to jealously guard and defend our national identity?
This identity must be reflected in the way our people conduct their national affairs. It must be seen in the quality of our newspapers, where the emphasis should be on informing and enlightening rather than on scandal and rumour-mongering. This national identity must be reflected in the respect and pride which we demonstrate towards our national symbols and our country. It must be given expression in the way our academics and researchers engage in an endless quest for self-knowledge and public education. And must be seen in the way in which our politicians aspire towards statesmanship rather than scoring cheap political victories.
Recent events in St. Lucia have clearly demonstrated our need to reflect and rediscover our passions for our country. With our government locked in sensitive negotiations with a multinational corporation, all the weaknesses in our national fabric manifested themselves. Some have found it difficult to understand the issue from a broad national perspective and have allowed themselves to be divided from the rest of the country and to be used against the people of St. Lucia. Similarly, some politicians have failed to put aside their opportunistic concerns, and have been eager to use this as an opportunity to agitate against the government. Finally, while some sections of our media have made an attempt to treat the matter professionally, others have failed to treat the matter in a broad and holistic way, and continue to focus on diversionary side issues.
I am presenting this as an illustration of the huge gap in our domestic national psyche. We must address this problem if we are to resolve the pressing internal social issues, which confront us. We all must come to see this as the most pressing political question of our time, and every citizen of St. Lucia must become sensitised to the urgency of this task.
However, whilst we remain aware of the negative social indicators, we must also be strengthened by our people’s commitment to creating a society based on the foundations of unity, respect and tolerance. The natural instinct of the St. Lucian people continues to be one of empathy and support for our fellow men. The negative social elements continue to shock and worry us, and have so far failed to become the accepted norm. Further, the majority of our people continue to show an attachment to the old values of respect, tolerance and togetherness which have been such a fundamental part of the St. Lucian personality.
It is opportune for me to recognise and show my gratitude to all the individuals, groups and organisations that are concerned with fostering the type of society, which we have been advocating. To the several youth and sports councils; the voluntary organisations such as Kiwanis and Lions; the administrators of the homes of the elderly and the young, such as the St. Lucy’s Home, Frances and Adelaide Home, Malgretoute of Soufriere, Help Age St. Lucia and the Holy Family Children’s home in Ciceron, I say a special thank you on behalf of the Government and People of St. Lucia.
It is also fitting to show our gratitude to organisations such as the Crisis Centre, the Ex-Service Men’s League, the Save the Children Fund, the St. Lucia Blind Welfare Association, the Dunnotar School and the St. Lucia School for the Deaf, which are concerned with protecting and uplifting the more vulnerable groups within our midst. We must also make specific mention of the work of persons concerned with rehabilitation of the young males who have fallen into a cycle of criminal and anti-social behaviour. I refer specifically to the staff of the Boys Training Centre and the voluntary organisations such as Back on Track Ministries, which are concerned with prisoner rehabilitation and instilling positive spiritual values into our young men.
The work of these many organisations, groups and individuals inject a ray of hope into our society, and renew our confidence in the future. Their work is a shining example to all of us and provide a clear indication of the continuing commitment of St. Lucians to St. Lucians. I commend the leadership of these organisations for their commitment to working with individuals in whom many have lost all faith and trust, and encourage more groups to emulate your example.
In closing, let me urge all St. Lucians to strive to develop the habits of respect and tolerance towards each other. Whilst our independence struggles continue to be external, it is just as important to strengthen ourselves internally to meet the challenges. I also urge you to enjoy your independence holiday, as it is the result of the struggles of your fore parents who built this country by their toil and sweat. On behalf of my Ministers and the entire Government I therefore wish all St. Lucians and visitors a happy and peaceful Independence Anniversary, and wish everyone a restful and enjoyable holiday.
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