Citizens of Saint Lucia over the seas, Happy Independence! This year, our country proudly celebrates its thirty-fourth year as a sovereign state.
Soon, I will be joining Saint Lucians living in Canada – from Ottawa to Toronto to Calgary – to share with them, affirming the mutual love and affection that Saint Lucia has for them and which they have for their homeland. However, my thoughts go out to all Saint Lucians worldwide.
In moments such as these, we especially realise that the differences we may share in religion, or politics or race are diminished by our common and unique identity, by our heightened sense that we are a special people. And even with our common threads, we celebrate our diversity, for it is this diversity that has shaped our culture and being.
Indeed, we should also honour at these moments all those who have shaped our current paths – whether in very personal ways through school or church, in the community, or in a more national way, through various media, from the heroines of the woods to judges across the oceans, in our playwrights, in our chantwèl, in our leaders and academicians.
For whereas we proclaim to be the fairest isle of all the earth, we know this beauty is complemented by our own efforts; this veritable pride comes from you, from Saint Lucian blood and zeal, from our sons and our daughters.
LOVE THAT CROSSES OCEANS
At this time, I know many of you miss the land of your birth, or the land that you called home for a while, perhaps the land where you were raised, or the land of familial ancestry. Thankfully, in today’s world of Skype and Facebook, online radio and Youtube, it is difficult for you to remain far away. Stay close and in love with your homeland.
Saint Lucia, as you may know, has long been an entrepôt, as people have come and gone trading and making a living – yet always falling in love with her enchantment. And this appreciation and affinity to the visitor is what now largely sustains our economy: that genuine and welcoming warmth of our people coupled with the beauty of our land.
However, we must strive to be more than just a destination for the wealthy. We must be a great place to live for all. In fact we must become a place where anybody would wish to remain, make a living, and enjoy a very high quality of life. We can accomplish this with your help, and the commitment of every Saint Lucian.
Indeed, I know many of you come to Saint Lucia on vacation, or plan to return to live in the future, whether after your professional development, maybe to invest or perhaps later for retirement. We welcome you to play your part, and to continue to love your island home.
Even if Saint Lucia is not on the horizon today, forget not the friends and family you left behind. While remittances still remains an important source of revenue for many in our society, there are still way too many forgotten parents who then speak of lost children, and vice versa, forgotten children who long for their lost parents. These prodigal tales need to be brought to resolutions of love. Let your love cross the oceans.
TRANSFORMING OUR WORLD
Next year, Saint Lucia marks thirty five years of independence, and fifteen years later that, fifty. We saw last year the regalia associated with such a jubilee in two other Caribbean lands. What then will we want to see for ourselves and our country by fifty? The time is ripe for us to shape that dream and then have the discipline, resolve and determination to realise it.
This Independence, we are called to unlock our creativity and in so doing transform our world.
In Saint Lucia, we need creativity to address a number of our major challenges important to our lasting independence: challenges such as creating jobs, especially for our young; containing public spending; promoting social equity; attaining food and energy security; leveraging foreign direct investments; providing affordable housing and access to amenities; as well as resource management.
Intellectual estate must replace real estate as the major driver of economic position. The challenges of the world are endless and it needs solutions: in medicine and in healthcare, in tackling climate change and environmental management, in energy, in agriculture, in communications, and in economics. And there are Saint Lucians who can make tangible transformations in all these spheres. Indeed, many of you may well have gone overseas to enhance your skills and credentials, and your country is proud of your achievements.
Wherever you have lived, I am sure this has provided you with another perspective on life and what you may want to see practiced in your own land. Speak and act today to craft an even better Saint Lucia, now and into the future.
There are many opportunities to dialogue on the future we want for Saint Lucia when she becomes fifty. Already, brainstorming is ongoing through undertakings such as the Caribbean Growth Forum and the Post 2015 Development Agenda Consultations funded through the United Nations. There is an opportunity to contribute online at www.worldwewant.org so I welcome you to register and be part of the Saint Lucia consultation. Saint Lucians will soon also be engaged in asking their opinions and ideas on a number of reforms that are very necessary to transform our island. Not least of which will be a National Development Plan to map our way forward. Our Diaspora, wherever you may be, will certainly be included.
REAFFIRMING OUR IDENTITY
I have undying hope for this land and I know you too would never give up your love and hope for this land either. These are not naïve wishes, but hopes that are rooted in confident belief that we are world class. This hope we must translate into world class performances, into world class products and services, into world class standards.
This Independence, let us reaffirm ourselves, our identity, our values. For our creativity will be shaped by who we are. We must be confident in ourselves, we must be courageous, and bold. We must be undefeated in our hope, cause and tenacity for a better Saint Lucia, and a better world. It exists already in our minds; let us will it around us and through our actions.
Of course, we must open to ideas and best practices that abound all over the world, with the assurance that with a strong identity and sense of purpose, we can embrace new ideas to our benefit. We would then discern as a population the good ideas and behaviours from the not so good. Reaffirming ourselves undoubtedly requires a commitment to education and learning to give our people the best opportunity to translate the world for themselves, and for their country.
We are a creative, ingenious people. We have proven this to the world. Let us prove it again, and to ourselves: from Parc Estate to Cap Estate; from fisher to farmer to pharmacist; in our capital’s streets and into all our communities; and of course in our Diaspora from California to Calgary, from Houston to the Yukon, in Peckham and in Panama, and in London, Washington, Havana, Miami and the Tri-State Area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. No matter how far you are, let your genius shine, let your values be affirmed, let your love of our tiny island be unsurpassed. Embrace your freedom and show your colours of creativity and ingenuity.
This Independence, I welcome every friend, descendent, resident and citizen of Saint Lucia –
I welcome you to recommit yourself to our beautiful, enchanting island of light; to its preservation and its promotion, to its pride and to its purpose. God bless Saint Lucia and happy Independence to all her creative people, in every part of this world.