My fellow citizens and residents:
Thirty-five years ago today, on Monday, September 19th, 1983, our nation was born.
On that first Independence Day, we felt a rush of love, patriotism and pride, listening to the blowing of the Sugar Factory’s horn along with the gun salute and the pealing of bells during the climactic raising of our flag – a majestic flag that we saw rise for the very first time at Warner Park.
The journey towards Independence was roughly eight years in the making, as Premier Robert Bradshaw, our first National Hero, outlined in his New Year’s message that “the plans of your Government are that some time in this year of Grace, 1976, you and I, and all of us, will together as a people, rendezvous with destiny.”
My fellow citizens and residents, it is my distinct honour and privilege to congratulate you as we mark our thirty-fifth Anniversary of Independence. The great excitement and high participation at our major Independence events, namely our State Service of Thanksgiving, the unveiling of statues for all of our National Heroes and the Prime Minister’s Lecture Series, tell a story of a people united to protect the gains of nationhood and ready to advance our great nation.
The theme for this year resonates so well with our history and the journey we have taken together to arrive at this place today. It speaks of our past and it speaks to our future: “Love, Service, Patriotism and Pride – Independence 35.” These words speak volumes about the character and integrity of the Federation today.
Love of country is what drives our passion for progress and nation building. This love puts the fire in our belly and is the motivator that inspires us to go above and beyond each and every day to strengthen our country, to make it a great place to live and a great place to visit. As citizens and residents, we love our country and we want others to love it too. As the common saying goes “share the love.”
In sharing the love we give service to our fellow citizens, our neighbours, our friends and our family for the benefit of our beloved country. Service is what we give selflessly and without the expectation of reward. It is, as our motto says, “Country above Self”.
To do this requires a vision not only of what will benefit the many rather than a few but it also relies on personal sacrifice. Sometimes this requires patience as we wait for the seeds that we have planted to flourish and sometimes we have to put our personal needs aside so that another person may benefit.
In this our 35th year of Independence, I want to thank all of you who do just that and to pay tribute to our forebears, who had courage and vision, for their sacrifices which they achieved to ensure self-government. We are fortunate in that we today do not have to suffer in the way that they did. We should not let their efforts be in vain, but use them as an inspiration to take the country forward to an even better future.
Our love of country and service to its betterment truly epitomises the essence of patriotism. Every person of this nation is bound together by common values, a common understanding and a common history. Sharing these threads and interweaving them in our daily activities create the strong fabric that holds our society together. We all know that when we work together for a common purpose, we create a formula for success and when we are successful that gives us pride. Patriotism requires of us as leaders that we refrain from disloyalty to our Parliament, our people and our Country. As leaders, our sole allegiance must be to our beloved Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. Such is the demand of patriotism.
National pride of course must have some substance, and in this regard we have much to be proud of our accomplishments.
As we stand at 35, we are forced to conclude, as eminent attorney Anthony Gonsalves QC has, that we have achieved quite a lot – accomplishments that far outweigh our petite size and limited resources. We take note of the prudent fiscal management of our Country that has seen us record above average economic growth and surpluses year after year. We meet our commitments at home and abroad. We are current with our obligations to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), the University of the West Indies (UWI), etc. We have achieved landmark marquee status as a cruise destination. More branded hotel properties are looking to our Country as the destination of choice. Our performance on regional exams is above average. We are the first of the English-speaking Caribbean to be certified by PAHO/WHO for having successfully eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.
The World Justice Project has ranked St. Kitts and Nevis #1 in the region on the Rule of Law Index 2017 to 2018. Our Parliament, the fulcrum of our representative democracy, is meeting regularly to conduct the people’s business. Our housing stock is far better than it was 35 years ago. In the short time of 3-plus years, a record 2,500 persons have directly benefitted from housing solutions of this administration.
Even as we acknowledge our accomplishments, we note that in some areas the progress has not occurred to our satisfaction. We are concerned with violence and other criminal activities in our Country and we shall provide a holistic and comprehensive response to this phenomenon in our state. Our reform and social intervention programmes such as the Explorers Club, TAPS programmes in our schools, etc. will bear fruit. I commend the work of the National Security Strategic Framework Committee and invite all with constructive ideas, views and suggestions to engage the Committee. All hands are required.
Our pride in our nation is rightly based on our achievements at home and how well we are regarded by the international community. We have received good news that qualified holders of St. Kitts and Nevis passports wanting to renew their U.S. visas are no longer required to meet the cost of travel to and accommodation in Barbados and the disruption caused by such travel. The mirror we hold up not only reflects our own image, but also the image that countries bigger and more powerful hold of us. Our international reputation is at its best.
Team Unity’s commitment to you was to build this nation, and that is exactly what we have been doing and will continue to do. Love, Service, Patriotism and Pride make for an Independence 35, which is memorable for all of the right reasons. We look back to the achievements of our forebears, who had the vision to strive for this nation’s sovereignty, and can hold our heads high with just pride. As we look back and reflect upon our achievements, so too we must look forward and have a vision for what we will do in the coming year.
Our future must build upon what is now a strong and firm foundation for nationhood. Both at home and abroad, we must continue to strengthen our resolve and commitment towards building an even stronger country.
There is more work that you, our citizens and residents, can do in supporting the police to drive out guns and drugs from our communities. We must remain firm in our commitment to protect our precious children from the harm that is caused by illicit drugs and illegal trade in and use of firearms.
Our continuing success is contingent on each of us exploring our God-given talents, striving to be the best that we can be. We must bring our ingenuity, industry and creativity to overcome challenges and seize opportunities.
If you have a bright idea for business, step forward. If you want to advance your education, step forward. If you want to develop your career, step forward. If you want to help shape our health care, step forward. If you want to create a safer society, step forward. Each and every one of you, step forward, because the future is bright. It is your future, it is our future. As a nation, we have a future of which we can be proud and we must create this future together. Together, we stand and in unity we succeed. Together we can build St. Kitts and Nevis anew on a more resilient and sustainable basis.
Our Independence theme inspires us to inculcate a sense of love, service, patriotism and pride into our children and our families. We are reminded that we need to show love for each other and for our country.
One way we can show our patriotic spirit is to participate in our wide array of exciting Independence activities, such as our Grand Independence Day Parade on September 19th, at 8:00 am in Warner Park. Going out to the parade with your family to display your national colours and cheer on the participants, such as the Explorers Youth Clubs and their drum corps, is an excellent way to instill civic pride in your young ones.
You should let them know every day that they are our future and our hopes rest in them fulfilling what our forebears worked so hard to attain – Independence.
Happy 35th Independence to one and all! May we serve, love and honour each other and our precious Land of Beauty on this 35th Anniversary of Independence.
May the God of Mercy protect us from all harm and continue to bless the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
To Him be all honour and glory!