DR. THE HONOURABLE TIMOTHY HARRIS
Thirty eight years ago, the sun rose for the first time on the sovereign state of St. Kitts and Nevis. It was just the evening prior, on September 18, 1983, a Sunday like today that the Union Jack made its final descent in our beautiful twin islands; and the National Flag of St. Kitts and Nevis rose majestically, on 19th September, 1983.
Perhaps it was fateful symbolism that the sun, for the first time, was seen rising over an independent St. Kitts and Nevis on a Monday. Monday, as you know, is the recognized start of the work week. Indeed, it was on that historic day, the diligent work of building a sovereign nation fell fully and forever on our shoulders. This was the beginning of a journey of adaptation, diversification, and re-creation.
We became then, and still are today the smallest independent nation in the western hemisphere. No doubt there must have been some anxiety mixed with the tremendous sense of expectation and responsibility felt by the leadership, who was then charged with leading this new nation. Similarly, there must have been a mixture of pride and hope in our sovereignty felt by the ordinary man and woman.
As a strong and resilient people, we embraced the challenge, and we began the task at hand, knowing that from then onward, our destiny was in our own hands. We recognized since then that reaching our destiny would be contingent upon our willingness and ability to adapt, diversify, and re-create, and it is in this vein that this beautiful nation has progressed.
Thirty eight years on we can look back at a remarkable record of growth and national achievements. Though many countries preceded us in becoming independent states, we moved with alacrity on our national developmental goals. We made tremendous leaps in public health, education, infrastructure, economic transition, trade and international relations, human rights, sports and culture. We are constantly being rated among the best in the region, across so many international developmental indices. Literacy rate, per capita income, rule of Law, Debt to GDP ratios, ICT indicators, transparency and good governance are some examples of areas in which we have been leading our peers.
We have, in our relatively short time as an independent nation produced a World Champion in Athletics; Olympians, internationally recognized artistes, and a renowned FIFA referee, assessor and trainer. We have hosted ICC cricket and FIFA football. We have youths excelling internationally in robotics competitions. Just days ago, the St. Kitts and Nevis Patriots Franchise emerged as the Caribbean Premier League champions. Likewise, our people as proud patriots of our beautiful nation must continue to strive to emerge as champions even in the face of adversity.
We have witnessed with much pride and admiration the achievements of our people in the diaspora, and noted their excellence in artistry, international business, technology, medicine, scholastic and scientific research, politics and diplomacy. Our citizens hold senior and important positions in multinational corporations, foreign governments, international bodies, universities, and in entertainment. We have achieved all these, making these feats even more notable and commendable given our small size.
We have so much to be proud of as Kittitians and Nevisians. Indeed, we are a special people, molded by our heritage, our struggles, our shared sacrifices, and our successes, over generations. We have accomplished much, but we have so much more to accomplish. I declare today that we will with God’s help, and we will do so through adaptation, diversification and re-creation.
Over the last eighteen months, we, like the rest of the world, have had some challenges. We have been fighting this dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, and we have been coping relatively well. On the whole, when we look at the world landscape, and consider political stability, economic advancement, standards of living, and quality of life, as well as employment and investment opportunities, St. Kitts and Nevis remains among the best places to live, and still proudly stands as the best run, best managed small island state in the world. Thanks be to God. The Lord has blessed our people with extraordinary talents and He has blessed this nation with extraordinary gifts which include our people.
Three days ago, we participated in our annual ceremony to celebrate and commemorate our National Heroes, all of whom played significant roles in preparation for, and taking us into independence. I spoke of their noteworthy and extraordinary courage and resolve to overcome the challenges they faced, laying the foundations for, and beginning to build a new nation. Having the discipline, courage, and resolve to overcome challenges is the sacred responsibility of independence.
I spoke to the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are still in this fight against this invisible enemy— the corona virus, that has wreaked havoc across the world. However, together we must overcome this challenge.
We must understand that it is the choices that we make, and the convictions from which they are made, that will determine our destiny. Your government has, and will continue to revise and implement the best policies and protocols, and to deploy resources where needed and most effective to deliver the best outcomes. We have been fortunate enough to have had the benefit of foresight and diplomacy to make available two options of vaccines to our people. However, it is ultimately our individual resolve and actions that will have the greatest effect on curbing and containing the spread of the virus within our borders.
Together, we must do all we can. Together, we must choose life. And we choose life by wearing masks, by washing our hands as often as possible, or by using a hand sanitizer, by adhering to physical distancing, by staying at home if feeling unwell, and by choosing to be vaccinated. What weighs in the balance of our choices is significant – because we are a small island developing state with limited resources and support.
I have spoken much of our shared responsibility. Each of us as responsible consenting adults must make deliberate decisions on what is best for ourselves, our families, and our country. Independence gives us the right of self-determination, the right to choose, but these rights come with immense responsibilities— not limited to self but extending to family, to community, to country, and our God. Every individual is part of something much larger, and we must focus on who we are together as a unit. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. As fellow citizens and residents, we are partners in this democracy—partners in this journey of sovereignty.
Partners at times differ. Partners will face difficulty, but in times of difficulty and disagreement, we must never turn on each other because we are partners. We must turn to each other. Trying times are not new to us. We have endured tests before, and we have always emerged a stronger and more prosperous nation.
On that strength of will, and love for our fellowmen, we endeavor towards that stronger, safer future to which I so often refer. That stronger, safer future is a perpetual journey. It is for us to, as did our ancestors, leave our St. Kitts and Nevis stronger and safer than it was before our time. We, the current stewards of this great nation, were well on our way to a stronger and safer future when this pandemic descended upon us. We have endured the worst so far. We have been resilient. We have learned. We must now apply what we have learnt. We must move forward, ushered and inspired by a strong sense of responsibility. Together, we must get back on that journey in earnest.
Last week, we welcomed back cruise passengers to our shores for the first time in well over a year. The thousand plus passengers on the Celebrity Equinox cruise liner is a mere drop in the bucket in comparison with the one million plus we hosted before the emergence of Covid-19. Nevertheless, this return of the cruise vessel to our shores signals a restart. It is evidence of adaptation and re-creation. The longest journey begins with one step. We have succeeded in taking that first step in rebuilding our cruise industry and advancing it to even greater heights. The length of that journey depends not just on how diligently we work, but how diligently we work together.
Despite the financial challenges, we were able to deliver a second stimulus package earlier this year as we continue along the path to that stronger safer future. We have kept our projects and investments funded, as well as our social safety nets and assistance programs growing. We conscientiously endeavored to touch every sector of our economy, and indeed every household in our responses to this unpredicted and unprecedented crisis. Our response to this crisis is testament to our belief that we are all in this together, and no one will be left behind. We believe that it will take all of us, working together, and contributing to that stronger safer future.
I reiterate that the reality of the ongoing threat of the pandemic must give us new resolve to revive energies towards agriculture and food security. This is not just for our survival, but also to leverage the extensive opportunities available for further economic expansion, diversification, and wealth creation. We must diversify, but we must adapt to diversify. We must ensure that in the near and long term, our independence is not just political, but economic as well. We can only achieve this if we work together to adapt, diversify and re-create.
Our future can be assured as we diversify our economy. We are making strides in ICT development, the development of Cannabis industry, our attempts to utilize renewable energy and our thrust to strengthen the agriculture sector by introducing new and exotic crops, as well as improving our livestock. These augur well for the stronger, safer future we intend to deliver.
We must be thoughtful and diligent in our planning and execution. We must face the future with that enduring sense of shared responsibility that has always helped us through difficult times. We have examples in our history of overcoming adversity, “with God in all our struggles”.
We possess all that is needed for us to get past those hurdles and achieve the stronger safer future. We have the intellectual capacity, built from our continual investments and our keen and unwavering interest in education and learning. We have the knowledge and experiences of those gone before us along with the energies and ingenuity of our young people. We must marry these with the strength of will, and love of country enshrined in our national anthem. In doing so, we will move closer to making our St. Kitts and Nevis our own Garden of Eden, a perpetual shining example of democracy, peace and stability, prosperity and opportunity.
Together we can, and we will move this nation to an even better standing. Together we can, and we will achieve the stronger, safer future we all look forward to and deserve. We will do this even in the face of adversity. Let us adapt, diversify, and re-create, together, for a better St. Kitts and Nevis.
I wish all Happy Independence Day. God bless you, and may He continue to bless the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
I thank you.