My fellow citizens and residents, it is an honour for me to greet you on the occasion of the 38th anniversary of the Independence of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Thirty-eight years ago today, by the grace of God, our dreams and aspirations as a people were realised. On that great and momentous day was born the proud Federation of St Kitts and Nevis, a sovereign nation of free and independent people.
Our journey to this point was a protracted and arduous struggle. On that road, our fathers and their fathers before them fought and died, but never relinquished their collective aspiration of self-determination. The 19th of September, 1983 marked the end of a very long struggle that changed from blood, tears and acrimony to principled negotiation and persuasion.
Our independence this year is being celebrated under the theme, ‘Adapt, Diversify, Recreate: Independence 38’. In essence, this theme encapsulates the elements needed for us to navigate our present state of affairs and get beyond this COVID-19 crisis. As a young nation, we are small, natural resource challenged and vulnerable. It will require all of our creative energies, innovation, intellect and long term strategic planning if our recovery is to be durable and resilient.
Our goal ought not simply to be about a quick recovery of our economy and livelihood, but it also should be about safeguarding our progress and prosperity for the long term. If we adapt, diversify and recreate now, we will be much better placed to build back better post-pandemic.
Over our 38 years of independence, we have made our mark as a proud and resilient people. We have continually turned failures into opportunities and uncertainties into successes. We have punched above our weight in education, business, farming, sports, culture and all other forms of human endeavour. We have enjoyed numerous accomplishments that speak to our national pride and self-reliance, notably:
– a vibrant and stable democracy
– a resilient and strong economy
– increased housing and infrastructural development
– improvements in education and health care
-preservation of our culture and heritage
-protection of our environment
Today we celebrate:
– our national and sporting heroes
– our scholars and creative thinkers
– the work of our front line workers
– our cultural identity and renowned hospitality.
Brothers and sisters, the past year and a half has truly been a challenging period for our country. We have been beset with the debilitating effects of COVID-19, which have severely tested our resourcefulness and our resolve. For over 18 months, the pandemic has posed and continues to pose unimaginable obstacles to effectuating our development plans.
However, despite the destructive effects of the pandemic, my government has remained committed to the safety, growth and development of our people and our island.
– In December, 2020, we opened the Newcastle Police Station and Fire Hall.
– On September 07, 2021, we witnessed the opening of the CCTV Command Centre.
– Two days, later on September 09, we had the ground breaking ceremony for the Mountain Crest Residences at Craddock Road.
-Next week we shall see the ground breaking ceremony for Sugar Mill Residences in Hamilton
– The promised Butlers road rehabilitation project is underway.
-The Bath Main Road preliminary work has started
– We have all borne witness to the unprecedented road work being done throughout Charlestown, with the resurfacing of Chapel Street, Happy Hill Alley, Market Street, Jews Street and Lower Government Road almost complete.
-We have solved longstanding drainage problems in Ramsbury and Craddock Road bringing welcomed relief to those neighborhoods
– We have installed a 400,000-gallon water tank at Hamilton, along with a water filtration system, which has increased our water yield exponentially and added stability to our water supply.
– The TVET Center at the Gingerland Secondary School is practically complete.
– Our national showpiece and first ever national park at Pinneys will officially open in December of this year.
-We have proudly partnered with MSR Media and created the foundation for a film industry for Nevis which even as I speak is now benefitting our sister island of St Kitts as well. Thus far we have seen three feature films shot on Nevis and a fourth now being filmed on St Kitts and Nevis.
-We have upgraded our health systems and invested in 2 new ambulances and critical equipment to fight COVID-19 including the procuring of PCR testing equipment to allow us to test for COVID right here in Nevis
-We have continued to provide financial support and scholarship opportunities for our students studying abroad and those pursuing studies online.
-We have innovated and reopened our schools blending technology and in-person training for the safe education of our children.
-We have witnessed an unprecedented reduction in violent crime on our island.
My fellow citizens, an important lesson learned by all nations faced with the COVID-19 state of affairs has been the need for a vibrant and robust domestic agriculture programme. It is self-evident that a strong agricultural base is imperative if we are to ensure food security and self-sufficiency for our people.
The stimulus provided by my government has played a pivotal role in the reviving and expansion of agriculture on the island of Nevis. We have already begun to witness the benefits of our thrust towards increased agricultural produce. We have seen an increase in our local supply and export opportunities have significantly expanded.
We gave attention to providing assistance to the entrepreneurs engaged in small and medium-sized businesses. We gave them access to loans with low interest rates, Customs waivers on business equipment and training to develop and maintain their businesses. The stimulus that we provided to the construction industry has been a tremendous success. This is but one mechanism being employed by us to resuscitate an ailing economy battered by the pandemic. The waivers, reduction and deferrals done by NEVLEC and the Nevis Water Department created a welcomed safety net for our people when they needed it most.
Over the past year, we have acquired the AstraZeneca and, most recently, the Pfizer vaccines and have been able to offer these to our people at all of our health centers across the island for free.
My brothers and sisters, the evidence is clear. Vaccines are the best and most effective way to defeat this dreaded and dangerous virus. I continue to urge and beseech our citizens and residents to do the responsible thing by vaccinating themselves and to follow the COVID protocols. There is much truth in the oft stated adage that “none of us will be truly safe, until all of us are safe”.
At this juncture please allow me to extend condolences to all of our citizens, at home and abroad, who have lost loved ones to this dreaded virus. As I have done on numerous occasions, I also extend our eternal gratitude to those on the frontline who continue to sacrifice so much in our nation’s interest.
My fellow citizens, even in the face of this pandemic, I remain eternally optimistic about our island and our nation. I am confident that our tomorrow will be better than our today. I am confident that our best is yet to come.
Independence 38 should not only be a time of celebration, but it should also be a time of serious reflection for all of us. Let us endeavour to have an independence celebration that causes us to concentrate our minds not on what we receive from our lovely island, but on what more we can give to it. Let us strive to be more productive and efficient in all we do, and to guard jealously those moral and spiritual values which have served us so well throughout our history – hard work, respect, sacrifice and the pursuit of excellence.
My brothers and sisters there can be no reward without work and no success without sacrifice.
Let us look beyond our narrow self-interest and become more community-oriented and ensure that no one is left behind. Let us continue to make our island a wonderful place to live, work, play, do business and raise our families.
We are stakeholders of this mission, and if we achieve it, our nation will continue to evolve and grow before our very eyes. We would be both the agents and beneficiaries of this defining change.
On this our 38th anniversary of Independence therefore I wish you God’s continued grace, guidance and mercy. May His face continue to shine upon us as a people and may we in turn never tire of giving thanks and praise to the Almighty for all that He has done and continues to do for our island and nation.
Thank you and Happy Independence to all.