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HomeOpinionCommentaryThe right to pursue our national aspirations and full responsibility

The right to pursue our national aspirations and full responsibility

 – Saint Lucia’s 45th Independence Anniversary Rally, Soufriere Mini Stadium, February 22, 2024

By Philip Pierre

The right of self-determination, which brought about our independence from colonial rule, brought with it the right to pursue our national aspirations and full responsibility for all aspects of our social and economic well-being. Having accepted this, we are now in charge of our social and economic life and structure. These rights and responsibilities, we are duty-bound to govern our country to the best of our abilities, in keeping with our values, principles, and the expectations of our people.

Although we attained Independence 45 years ago, we are still encumbered by some aspects of colonial rule. It was only last year our country acceded to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), as our final Appellate Court to replace the United Kingdom-based Privy Council. But this is not the end; we have to acknowledge, that at this juncture in nation-building, there is still work to be done to finally proclaim our true liberation from colonial rule.

The government has revived the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reform with the mandate of examining the work of the Constitutional Reform body and making recommendations for a new constitution and status for Saint Lucia.

The theme of this year’s celebration, “Douvan Ansanm: Building a Nation Through Unity, Resilience and Creativity”, was again chosen this year to ignite national awareness of the need for us to commit to those guiding principles for collective action by our people.

A total commitment to unity

My government remains committed to the ideals of national unity despite any religious and political differences among our people. We accept that we will have those differences, but we have also long recognised and we will continue to promote the ethos, that working together as a nation, as one people, with one common purpose, is the only viable approach for our country to achieve inclusive, meaningful and sustainable development. We must consciously resist the destructive forces of division, crime, and selfishness, envy, and embrace the progressive spirit of unity, and love as we build a more equitable, inclusive, and just country.

As a country, it will serve us well to adopt a unified vision for the future. This vision must be fashioned through continuous civil dialogue and consolidated through inclusiveness in our social and political relations, in fairness, in resource allocation, and an unrelenting desire to improve the well-being of the less fortunate.

And so, on this 45th Independence Anniversary, I renew my call to civil society, political parties, non-governmental organizations, trade unions, business associations, national, religious, and community groups, and other institutions to come forward to play your part in nation-building without fear or favour. Our unity is our strength. As a people, we have more in common to unite than divide.

We must protect our democratic freedoms, freedom of the press, free speech, the conventions of parliament, free and fair elections, social justice, and enforcement of law and order in our country. These responsibilities cut across all social, religious, and political differences that may exist among us.

Building social and economic resilience

In this interdependent global world, the incessant wars and conflicts, though not of our making, severely affect our economy through imported inflation, rising commodity prices, and supply chain disruptions, and despite our best efforts to subsidise the basic cost of living for the population, inflation continues to impact on our quality of life. Government will continue to implement measures to improve the quality of life and the impact of inflation on our people.

Devastating weather systems generated by climate change have not spared our disaster-prone Caribbean region. The economy of Saint Lucia has suffered heavy losses and damage as a result of climate change. In the face of these grave threats and dangers, mitigation and adapting to build social, economic, and infrastructural growth and resilience is an urgent need of our country.

In this regard, the government will undertake to promote investments in more climate-resilient housing, roads and bridges, hospitals and wellness centres, schools, airports, and seaport infrastructure.

As a country, we must not abandon the principles and values that define us as a people. Our belief in social justice, hard work, discipline, inclusiveness, a society based on meritocracy, respect for our national symbols, preservation of our cultural heritage and our environment, and caring for the less fortunate in our country.

Unleashing our creativity

To the youth of Saint Lucia, I say, let us use this occasion of the 45th anniversary of our independence to resolve to further unleash our creativity. Let the world feel once again what we can achieve, what we can accomplish. Let us use our creative talents to build a stronger, more economically powerful nation – a Saint Lucia that can be an example to the world.

To our young men in particular, those who are attracted to gangs and the pursuit of crime for which there are no Nobel prizes, but only confinement within prison bars and ignoble, premature deaths, you can gain safer prosperity and genuine glory by unlocking your hidden talents through legitimate, honourable pursuits.

Saint Lucians have the power to be transformative in our areas of choice. Let us not be satisfied with mediocrity.

Let us try to be innovative; let our imaginations soar to new heights and let us climb these heights. There are very many areas and very many fields that we can pursue and make a positive difference to our communities and our country.

The rapid advances in information technology and the rise of artificial intelligence are pointing the direction in which the world is heading. We must not be left behind as the world advances and so, we must be creative enough to harness these technologies if we are to build a modern society. Through digital training, digital transformation of the economy, through knowledge, and scholarship. we will strengthen the capacity of our citizens to become global citizens for employment, social mobility, and wealth creation.

My government is committed to assisting young Saint Lucians and all those who have ideas for businesses, to become successful entrepreneurs and be the new standard bearers of our future economic development through agencies like the Youth Economy, the MSME Small Loan/ Grant facility, the Community Tourism Programme and through the expansion of the technical and vocational education in our schools.

Young people seize the opportunities that exist and let’s unleash our creativity for the benefit of our country. Happy Independence Saint Lucia.

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