Basseterre, St. Kitts, June 28, 2016 (SKNIS): St. Kitts and Nevis’ first Prime Minister, Dr. the Right Excellent and the Right Honourable Sir Kennedy Alphonse Simmonds, made history as the first living national hero when he was conferred today with the highest award of the country, the Order of National Hero. He was awarded for his un-matched and sterling contribution to nation-building at an investiture ceremony held by His Excellency the Governor-General Sir S.W. Tapley Seaton at Government House on Tuesday June 28, 2016.
“Today is indeed a remarkable occasion and in some ways it is about us as a people redeeming the times, and equally it is about us as a people making our own history and coming of course to reconcile our duty as citizens and nationals of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“We are here acknowledging that we are proud of our history and we are proud of the contributions of our sons and daughters to the development of St. Kitts and Nevis. Today then, is a blessed day and we really ought to rejoice and make glad…. Today, equally our heartiest congratulations and loudest thank you are extended to Dr. the Right Excellent and the Right Honourable Sir Kennedy Alphonse Simmonds, our first Prime Minister and only living National Hero,” Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris said.
“Such a momentous occasion is being witnessed by so many today. Many appreciate that had it not been for the Lord and the transformation of the landscape from its divisive politics and ad hominem attacks, this day would not have come. I give God honour and glory for bringing our people into the marvelous light and the opportunity it has provided for a fresh start, a fresh start in national healing, a fresh start in reconciliation, a fresh start in national honour, and a fresh start in national unity,” he further added.
In commending the only surviving National Hero Sir Kennedy, Prime Minister Harris mentioned that he has been “ given his flowers while he is still alive” instead of posthumously.
Several achievements of Sir Kennedy were outlined by the Prime Minister, which include taking the country into Independence on September 19, 1983, from Great Britain.
“Sir Kennedy is a towering standard bearer for the period that historians label as the beginning of contemporary Caribbean politics, which is that watershed moment in time when several Caribbean countries attained their Independence from Great Britain,” Prime Minister Harris said.
Other achievements of Sir Kennedy, then Premier, include signing of the Treaty of Basseterre along with several Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Heads of Government on 18th June, 1981.
“The formation of the OECS in 1981 edged St. Kitts and Nevis in the forefront of sub-regional integration. Everyone in the region and further afield took notice of the halcyon prosperous days that Kittitians and Nevisians would enjoy well into the next decade under the visionary leadership of Sir Kennedy,” said Prime Minister Harris, while highlighting that as the country’s first prime minister, “his government’s main development objectives between 1980 and 1995 focused upon improving on the country’s infrastructure, creating specially designated areas for tourism, and fostering a macro-economic and regulating environment that would aid private sector development.”
Prime Minister Harris described the 1980’s under Sir Kennedy’s leadership as one of a “booming economy”, rising wages and salaries, one of the lowest unemployment rates in the Caribbean, and labour productivity among the highest in the OECS, being the largest exporter of clothing to the United States.
The Sir Kennedy Simmonds Highway that leads to the South-East Peninsula was dubbed the brainchild of Sir Kennedy.
“The South-East Peninsula is now home to many beach bars and restaurants, the Sea Bridge Ferry Terminal, Christophe Harbour, the first tunnel in the country and the soon-to-be-opened Park Hyatt, which is the premium brand of the Hyatt Hotels Corporation,” Prime Minister Harris said.
Other snapshots of Sir Kennedy’s achievements include the construction of Port Zante with facilities, his contribution to making the country’s education and banking sector more egalitarian, support for the equality of children irrespective of the circumstances of their birth, efforts to enhance student learning through school feeding programme and the self programme.
In singling out the banking sector, Prime Minister Harris said that the Development Bank, called the People’s Bank, opened its doors on May 22nd, 1981 and has had a successful 35 year history. In 35 years, the Development Bank has offered financial and technical assistance to thousands. Prime Minister Harris declared that within the last ten years (2006-2016), the Bank has approved 2, 143 student loans valued at a whopping 143.million dollars.
“Sir Kennedy’s legacy is composed of tens of thousands of pixels, each one represents every single citizen and resident of St. Kitts and Nevis, whose life has been impacted by his leadership. Today, we say thank you,” Prime Minister Harris said.
His Excellency the Governor General Sir Tapley Seaton also paid tribute to Sir Kennedy in whose Cabinet he served as attorney general, the youngest attorney general serving in the Commonwealth at the time. Sir Tapley served for 15 years as attorney general under the Sir Kennedy-led People’s Action Movement (PAM) Administration.
The decorated investiture ceremony was attended by members of the diplomatic corps, senior government officials, members of Cabinet, Premier of Nevis, Honourable Vance Amory, former Governor General, Sir Cuthbert Sebastian, and friends and family of the awardee. The National Anthem was done by the St. Kitts and Nevis Defence Force Band and the invocation by the Ven. Archdeacon Dr. Alson Percival.