The following address by Honourable Prime Minister Allen Chastanet was delivered on the occasion of Saint Lucia’s 40th Anniversary of Independence
“THOSE of us old enough to remember when we attained Independence in 1979, will also know the occasion was not without its challenges.
On this day we can all look back with pride, keeping in mind our Founding Fathers who dared to dream of an Independent Saint Lucia.
As proud citizens of Saint Lucia, and for the benefit of future generations, it is our duty to honour this great legacy.
As we reflect on this journey we must also keep in mind the things that bind us together: our faith, our values, our community, our shared accomplishments, our families.
Together as one nation, we have achieved much. But we must admit there have been times when it seemed we had lost sight of our goals; our aspirations. We started to see ourselves as victims and in the process gave up control of our own destiny. Instead of sticking together as a small island threatened by a new world order, we permitted ourselves to turn on one another. To tear each other down.
Only by standing together in pursuit of a common cause; only by holding on to our faith in ourselves, in our values, will we find the strength to take care of our country. Let us demonstrate, to ourselves and others, that we have not lost our ability to love, to care for one another as Saint Lucians.
Let us also stop blaming others; let us instead acknowledge our own shortcomings. Only then will we be able to begin overcome them.
So here we are: An independent nation that has come through a period when our survival depended on the generosity of others who may not have shared our own priorities.
Now at 40, we have no choice but to accept our responsibilities, the first being to guarantee ourselves, and those who rely on us, a better now and tomorrow—regardless of impediments; come rain or shine. We can no longer afford to be distracted by small-mindedness and selfish considerations.
Even as we celebrate our achievements, we must also look back on our shortcomings; on the past actions that made our national goals that much more difficult to achieve. We must now recognize the difference between difficult and impossible. With united determination, we can reverse negative trends and get back on the road to national fulfillment. It is never too late to recommit ourselves.
We must be ready to pilot the restoration of the economic and social fortunes of our country.
We are painfully aware that too many Saint Lucians are living in less than ideal circumstances. We need to provide proper health care for all our people; we need better housing; we need to establish an education system that meets the demands of the modern workplace.
Above all, it will take a united effort between Government and all Saint Lucians to guarantee safety and security for all.
Success will only be achieved if we work harder and smarter as a country. And we must do so, together.
In my New Year’s address, I urged all Saint Lucians to turn our eyes collectively to the world outside; to witness what is taking place, and to understand the need for us to fashion a nation that is ready and equipped to take its own place in this new international environment.
This is why, the theme of this year’s Independence anniversary is a strong call to all Saint Lucians everywhere, to stand up and play our part in pushing our country forward.
The message in the Independence song penned by Ronald Boo Hinkson, one of our inspiring national icons, could not be clearer. It says in part: “We’re all in the journey. Let’s shape and share a brighter future. This is a call to action, to every Saint Lucian. Lift one another, so we can progress together…”
The truth is, we are stronger together. And we only do more damage to ourselves when we turn away from our neighbour in need.
Recently, upon reflection on the theme which was chosen for Independence two years ago: “I am Saint Lucia”, I realized that although it was about instilling pride in our individual Saint Lucian heritage; it missed a fundamental truth: “We are Saint Lucia.” No one is in this journey alone.
Regardless of our colour, our gender, our age, together we own and must protect our country. The sooner we embrace that truth, the sooner we will achieve our national goals.”
We can start with the little things:
There is no reason we should be dumping garbage indiscriminately, tossing trash out of car windows, parking derelict vehicles anywhere we please, and paying no mind to our community members who roam the streets.
There is no reason why we should be allowing motorists to run riot in our capital blaring music, even on quiet Sundays.
There is no real reason why we should be resorting to physical aggression as a solution to disagreements.
There is no reason why we should steal from each other or take advantage of guests to our country
In all these things, we hurt ourselves.
This is not who we are.
We are the Saint Lucia of Sir Derek Walcott, who left us this message:
“Break a vase, and the love that re-assembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its sym-metry for granted when it was whole.”
Today, I say let Saint Lucia be that vase. Let the love that puts her back together be ever stronger. Let us no longer take Saint Lucia for granted; let us appreciate this blessing of an island we call home; let us also recognize our unsung heroes.
Our nurses, who attend to our sick at all hours whenever and wherever.
The coaches who volunteer their time to nurture our next generation of athletes, such as Mr. Cuthbert Modeste.
The teachers, such as the legendary Sister Claire. Let’s not forget Augusta Ifill, and Phillip “Ninja” Etienne, who have helped to educate generations and kept teaching lessons after-school knowing that some parents will never be able to pay.
Our compassionate community heroes, who take care of our less fortunate and elderly, such as Mrs. Anista Brown who has been running a Soup Kitchen in Soufriere for several years and the Operators of Cornerstone Humanitarian Society, Mrs. Juliet Brathwaite and Mr. Desmond Phillip, who provide a safe haven for our homeless.
These are just some of the people, who give of themselves every day; never asking for a thank you; never asking for anything in return. They use their individual strengths for the greater good and in the service of others; in service of country.
Let us remember and recognize this Independence Day the everyday Saint Lucians, who go about their daily lives in spite of their individual hardships:
The mothers who worked all their lives to put a hot Bouyon on the family table.
The vendors who saved every dollar to put their children through school.
The dedicated farmers who gather the strength to plant and replant their crops even after devastating storms.
The fishermen who continue to venture out to sea, even after getting lost in the Atlantic.
The bus driver who takes home that last load of passengers from the bus stop, even in the rain.
The hotel workers, without whom, we would never be named World’s Leading Honeymoon Destination.
The media personalities who have become legend: Rick Wayne, Tim Poleon, Dave Samuels, Primus Hutchinson, Winston Springer, Juk Bois; and the many others, who challenge us to be better leaders.
The Taxi Drivers who are great ambassadors for our country.
The sanitation workers who clean up the city in the wee morning hours.
These are our soldiers of patriotism! These are the people to be celebrated.
The everyday people who understand that Independence came with a responsibility to ourselves and to our country.
Of course, Government has a role to play.
But no Government can be successful without a people, united in the commitment to others, a devotion to charity, to duty and to patriotism.
It’s that humility; that community spirit, that “All-In” mindset that strengthens us to work for the good of Saint Lucia.
As we mark our 40th Anniversary, one important agenda item before our country is that of truly recognizing what our country is capable of.
Just look at some of our achievements: two Nobel Laureates in one generation in Lewis and Walcott, outstanding medical doctors, engineers, public and private sector workers, sportsmen and women, musicians and artistes recognized internationally, legal luminaries, and a world heritage site.
Is this not who we truly are capable of being? Innovators, builders and achievers?
Let us make the choice to build a nation where we nurture our young talent, such as the next undiscovered Daren Sammy, Mindoo Phillip or Levern Spencer.
Let us encourage and get behind the next Chef Nina, the next JallimEudovic.
Just look at what young Mr. Dujon has been able to achieve by turning seaweed into fertilizer.
We must as a nation get behind initiatives such as the Sports Academy and the After Schools Coaching Programmes. Where we can discover raw talent early on and give our young people an alternative to join clubs and not gangs.
As a Government, we continue to call on Saint Lucians to rise up and take control of our destiny, to feel so inspired by the achievements of our outstanding sons and daughters that we begin to change course in our habits, attitudes and thinking and commit to higher principles and ideals of responsibility for our national development.
We must make the next 40 years count! We must make the next year count and the year after that.
There is still a lot of work to be done in the areas of crime, education, health care, agriculture, housing, environment, and in the eradication of poverty.
But I am confident, now more than ever, that together we will solve these problems.
As a grown up nation of 40, we need to be bold and confident, to be disciplined, family-oriented, show maturity and above all remain humble.
On this 40th. Anniversary of our independence, let us as Saint Lucians make a solemn pledge to turn over a new leaf. Recognizing our ability as a small country to compete with the rest of the world.
When people think of Saint Lucia we must be seen as innovators, a country of excellence, a nation that is peaceful and God-fearing.
Let us get “All In”.
Let us aspire to build a better Saint Lucia, so Saint Lucia can inspire the world.
I once again wish all Saint Lucians, at home and abroad, Happy 40th Anniversary.
May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless Saint Lucia.