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Address to the Nation by Prime Minister The Honourable Stephenson King, on the occasion of Saint Lucia’s 29th Anniversary of Independence

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FEBRUARY 21, 2008

My fellow Saint Lucians, Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of

Saint Lucia - Good Evening.

Today, we stand full of the optimism with which the father of our nation; the late Sir John Compton, stood on that Thursday night on 22nd February, 1979, when Saint Lucia attained the status of an independent nation. In that same year, another great event that has since brought pride and glory to all Saint Lucians also occurred. To further attest to the greatness of our Country in 1979 - "Saint Lucia’s 1st Laureate" Sir Arthur Lewis won the Nobel Prize for Economics. Today, approximately 29 years since these historic occasions, the character of our people, our ideals, hopes and dreams, reflect the resilience and diligence that we need to face new global challenges that now threaten the principles of nationhood.

I say with gratitude, that we achieved this dignity and greatness as the nation of St Lucia, not only through the sacrifices of today's heroes, but also due to the immense sacrifices of our forefathers throughout history. Let us take this opportunity to first bow our heads in salutation to all those who sacrificed their blood and sweat for our Country – Saint Lucia.

Our fight was more than a fight for nationhood. It was a fight for freedom. A freedom for which our ancestors toiled, and while no blood was shed in Saint Lucia on February 22nd 1979, we must not forget the centuries of struggles that went into attaining that status - Struggles that were marked by relentless opposition, from both internal and external forces.

The struggles which we overcame meant victory, not for the United Workers Party for having brought Saint Lucia to this pivotal stage of its political history and economic development, from a colonial dependency to full nationhood; it meant victory for the labour of our ancestors, victory for our other brothers and sisters still in the bondage of strife and discord, and victory for our children and their children.

Ladies and gentlemen our nation is a young one. In political terms and in the historical life of a nation, 29 years is not a long period, but within that time we have seen dramatic and bold changes that have taken place in our small but renowned island, acclaimed for its stunning beauty. While we brand and market ourselves as “Simply Beautiful”, we want such a brand to mean more than a place for visitors to enjoy. This is our homeland. We built it from our struggles. We want it to be a place that our children can inherit - a place where they feel safe and can live in peace and harmony.

From the attainment of independence, we have developed into a proud and confident people, who have made great strides in our economic development. We have witnessed a social transformation that has broken down the barriers of class, where social mobility is determined by one’s educational qualifications, ability and talent. We should be proud of the harmonious relations that exist between all races, religious denominations and economic classes that make up the unique fabric of our country. Our country is a multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic nation. Few countries have such a diverse group of people, seeking their economic and social destiny within the framework of a democracy.

Fellow Saint Lucians, this is the fulfilment of a dream that Sir John Compton expressed at the very start of his political career, when the United Workers Party; under his leadership, came to power in 1964. These noble aspirations have been threatened time and again, but we will not allow retrograde behaviour to derail our independence movement – not for one moment. Ladies and gentlemen, in a world that shows no mercy to small developing states and our freedom choice, our struggles will continue. But I am confident, that on this the 29th anniversary of our independence, we will continue to prosper, against all odds.

In one of his addresses at the independence talks prior to nationhood, Sir John declared that “the Government of Saint Lucia holds most fervently, that it is the inalienable right of every country, however small, to be free and preside over its own destiny.” This is a universal principle that applies to all countries and people, and in recounting the words of Sir John, we are reminded today of the plight of our magnanimous friends - the Taiwanese, who are being denied their aspirations for self-determination and independence.

Today, as we reflect on what it means to be independent, let us recall that without the resolute determination of Sir John in pursuit of independence and the great strides we have made since then, Saint Lucia would not now be charting its own course, would not be master of its own destiny and would not be respected by the wider Caribbean Community and the world at large.

Together, my brothers and my sisters, we are going to begin a new struggle, a noble struggle, which will lead our country to peace, prosperity, and greatness. It will take every St Lucian at home and abroad to support us with this struggle.

Our country can only prosper if we put petty personal interests and narrow partisan party politics aside, and work for the common welfare and well-being of Saint Lucia. Whereas a healthy democracy requires objective criticism, with different ideas contending, what we have witnessed in the recent past is a posture of sterile adversarial politics on everything and every small item, all the time, with no moment for pause or reflection. These methods failed in the past and will fail in the future, for the good sense of our citizens has always prevailed, no matter what. You demonstrated that good sense in the recent elections, when you placed confidence in a party that has always had your welfare and interests of the country at the forefront of its agenda. I am confident that you know that we will lead this Country; that you have entrusted to us, towards prosperity in spite of the global challenges which we face.

Ladies and gentlemen we are willing to work with all in that endeavour. We all have the capacity to rise above the trivia, to look to a greater ideal, put aside narrow party political partisanship, and put our shoulders together to work for the common enterprise of continued economic advancement that was achieved over the years.

There must be the recognition that we are living in a dynamic and changing world, and the “independence” we sought 29 years ago no longer carries the same currency. We are living in an increasingly “interdependent” global environment, where no country is spared or isolated from events that are taking place in other parts of the world. Even acts of terrorism in distant countries, place a financial burden on small territories like ours, forcing us to introduce increased and costly security measures, that guarantee the safety of our citizens and visitors to our shores.

In this regard the turmoil in the world economy created by the high oil prices, has had its own impact on tourist arrivals as it has increased the costs of travel, the global price of goods and services, and has affected the general well-being of nations across the globe. This will be further affected by the economic down turn in the United States of America, thus compelling Saint Lucia to adjust to these new realities, one I am confident that we can adapt successfully.

Fellow Saint Lucians, our country is filled with bright industrious people, who can help us stem this tide. The groundwork has been done, and the foundation laid down has proven to be resilient enough to withstand any challenge. We have a growing asset base, rising participation rates in education and training; more educated and empowered youth; decreasing crime rate – all of these presenting opportunities, that in a fast growing economy, we must be ready to take advantage of.

This government is therefore committed to the training and retraining of our citizens to face all of these challenges. It is our objective to focus our attention on all levels of education, from the very young in the preschools to the secondary and tertiary levels. We must build the capability now amongst our youth, and that is why we will be placing more emphasis on education, enterprise and entrepreneurial skills.

Our vision is not simply focussed on an education that will lead to finding a job, but rather designed to develop an education system that will strengthen the social, moral and spiritual fabric of our nation. We envisage an education system that will focus on cultural leadership skills that will engender an experience of new developments, in the areas of arts, cultural products, music and sports. Such activities will give us a stronger sense of national identity. It will make us stronger as a community and as a nation. It will build our capacity and our social capital, as we work together to succeed in meeting any challenges that come our way. We want to take pride in a cultural identity that embodies our unique heritage and creativity. Our legacy will be the building of a much stronger sense of national identity that will give our people a sense of self-worth in this fast changing world.

In all of this, we foresee an education system that will strengthen our moral and spiritual fabric. We believe that this will make it possible for our young people to bridge the gap between what they are and what they have in themselves to become partners in development. This system will embody ideals and aspirations that will speak to a guiding belief that every child has a talent, every child can learn and that we must nurture and fulfil the potential of all. It is time for St Lucia to leave behind once and for all this culture of pessimism, of the acceptance of low aspirations that holds us back. We must develop a culture of higher standards and higher aspirations. In this way we will develop respect for self, respect for each other and respect for country. The fact that we have come through so much, tells us that we are truly blessed. Let that appreciation be reflected in our education system, so that we will further prepare ourselves for what is to come.

My dear Saint Lucians, let it be known that despite the dire consequences of the volatility in the oil market, the outlook for Saint Lucia is optimistic, for we have registered a reversal of the trends that have marked other countries in the region.

Such optimism is reflected on the law enforcement front. After just one year in office, one of the major achievements of this administration was the dramatic drop in the murder rate from 42 in the last year of the past administration to 24 in 2007 - an incredible drop by 45%. No other country in the region can boast of such a dramatic drop, in spite of using similar methods such as the recruitment of foreign police officers, yet the rate of murders in their territories continue unabated.

Citizens and visitors alike feel a greater confidence that this administration will pursue the criminals until a crime is solved and justice is done. As a result, there is a greater sense of safety and freedom, free from the fear of venturing out at night. This administration has increased the presence of law-enforcement officers all over the city and other hot spot areas in the country, where predators prey on the innocent and vulnerable.

On the economic front, due to the foundation that was laid under the leadership of Sir John and the United Workers Party, numerous investors have chosen Saint Lucia. All of the development projects that have taken place to date have been built on the foundation and infrastructure of the genius of Sir John’s vision.

It is in the spirit of this great vision of development that Sir John in his final budget presentation proposed the subdivision of the island into four distinct development areas called quadrants. The main feature of this futuristic plan is the redevelopment of Castries and North-Western region as the financial, touristic, administrative and commercial centre for Saint Lucia and the sub-region, making Port Castries an attractive entry point for investors, in which the economic benefits will be fed to the other areas. Our vision is not just one of economic growth, but also of a growth which would improve the quality of life and standard of living of all St Lucians.

Our vision is to alleviate and reverse the poverty that has gripped some of our communities, since the decline of bananas. Ladies and gentlemen these communities will be our priorities. In our endeavour, no one will be left behind. With your help, each of us will become our brothers' keepers. I am confident that if we maintain this momentum of growth for the next 5-10 years, then it would be possible for us to eradicate poverty, ignorance, hunger and disease from our country.  This is not a dream, but rather something that is achievable in our times.  

This Government is committed to pursuing its policy and record of solid national development for Saint Lucia, with the involvement of all Saint Lucians. Many entrepreneurs have expressed their interest in undertaking major projects in Saint Lucia, but this administration is guided by the policy that investments must involve the Government and people, in partnership with foreign investors, so that greater benefits can accrue to our people and our Country. We must harness and use the best reservoir of talent that Saint Lucia has, in order to deal with the global challenges that confront us.

Fellow Saint Lucians, every celebration of our independence should remind us of the remarkable Saint Lucians who made historic contributions in making the occasion a significant activity on our calendar of events. We pay tribute to Reverend Charles Jesse, who composed the lyrics of our National Anthem, Mr. Leton Thomas who wrote the music, and Mr. Dunstan St. Omer who designed our national flag. They form a significant part of our history and as national heroes of our independence they should not be forgotten.

Independence should be a unifying force, not the divisiveness among our people that marked its inception. So in the spirit of our National Anthem, let us all recall the words that encapsulate this sentiment: “Gone the days when strife and discord, Dimmed her children’s toil and rest, Dawns at last a brighter day, Stretches out a glad new day”.

Brothers and sisters, fellow Saint Lucians, sons and daughters of Saint Lucia, in the spirit of peace, love and unity, it is my esteem pleasure to wish all of you a peaceful and enjoyable celebration of our 29th year of Independence.

I thank you and may God Richly bless you.


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