I pause to reflect upon those that we would have lost in 2013 and in particular, I spare a thought for those who perished in St. Lucia and St. Vincent and The Grenadines, in what has been dubbed the Christmas tragedy. Their memories and their spirits live on with their loved ones.
Like many of you, for me 2013 had its victories and its challenges and like many of you I am excited about the possibilities of 2014. I want to thank you the good people of St. Kitts and Nevis for your prayers, encouragement, kind words and of course your constructive criticisms. I thank you also for your love, your faith, your sacrifice and your patience. In talking about the upcoming year, one cannot adequately and truly put things into perspective unless we consciously reflect on what happened in 2013.
TEAM UNITY was established at a time when some believed that it could never be done…that three political parties on the two islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, some traditional antagonists, could come together and put people first over party. The People’s Labour Party (PLP), the People’s Action Movement (PAM) and the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) came together in this historic movement at this critical juncture in our country’s short history, because of national imperatives driven in large measure by the cultural, political, social and economic challenges that we are facing as a country.
In 2013 we saw multiple threats to the well-being and advancement of our people and your prosperity and therefore Team Unity was formed to resolve these issues permanently. We joined thousands of people and shouted with one voice that the “wall of Jericho” must come down. We believe that the walls that Dr. Douglas and his administration have put up are keeping the people of St. Kitts and Nevis from their promised land. We believe that the people should share in the prosperity that emanates from our land and we reject the idea that the wealth that this country creates is only for a select few. Let it be known that we in Team Unity believe wholeheartedly, that the prosperity that this land produces is for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis, not just for this generation but for the generations to come.
In 2013, the current regime continued to sell the future prosperity of St. Kitts and Nevis to foreigners, even to the point of undermining our Citizenship by Investment program and, in the process, damaging the credibility of St. Kitts and Nevis in the international community through the reported sale of diplomatic passports to individuals from afar, without accountability. In 2013 we learnt that our diplomatic passport was used in a devious attempt to circumvent the immigration law of Canada. This act of deception placed our visa-free access to Canada in jeopardy and it called into question the integrity of our Citizenship by Investment programme.
It was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who once stated the fact that “tomorrow begins today” and that we are faced with the “fierce urgency of now”. In our reality in this country, given our national imperatives, change must take place now. The Motion of No Confidence in the leadership of Dr. Douglas and his administration which was filed by the Hon. Leader of the Opposition over one year ago is not an organized group of words. It is not just a symbolic statement. It represents a change for the people…a CHANGE that the people genuinely want.
And why do the people want this change you may ask? Well, when I walk the streets of this country, the people, especially the young people, tell me that they do not know if they will be able to survive in St. Kitts and Nevis. The young people tell me that they do not feel a part of any prosperity that is happening in St. Kitts and Nevis. Our talented young graduates tell me that when they come home from Colleges and Universities abroad they cannot find work. I talk often times to families who have to decide between paying their electricity bill and putting food on the table and buying medicine for their children. I talk to mothers and fathers who want to send their children off to study in order to improve their chances of a having a better quality of life than they had but they cannot afford to do so. I talk to smart, able intelligent men and women who want to work but cannot find suitable jobs. I talk to people who believe that our rich natural resource, our land, is being sold out to benefit a few. I talk to economist who opined that had our fiscal affairs been better managed there would have been no need for a land-for-debt swap and the deprivation of our young people of their patrimony.
What is happening now in this country is not what our forefathers envisioned when they fought and bled for the right to vote and for independence. They vigorously and courageously challenged the status quo against almost impossible odds not for themselves, but they made sacrifices instead for future generations. They understood that the decisions one makes today affect how others live tomorrow. And so we take the example of our forebears and we embark on a new year with hope and optimism. A new year filled with promise and high expectations. A new year that will begin with the question, will there be change in St. Kitts and Nevis or just more of the same?
The answer to that question is that the people of St. Kitts and Nevis will continue to demand change and we in Team Unity agree that change needs to happen now. We can no longer wait whilst our country’s reputation within the region and around the world is at stake. Just as Joshua and the children of Israel marched around Jericho wall, we the good people of St. Kitts and Nevis must stand together with one voice of unity. If we continue to stand together, then all the walls that stand in the way of our progress will come down. If we stand together the wall of unemployment will come down. When we bind ourselves together in unity the wall of high electricity bills will fall. If we all embrace and move forward as one family, together in unity, the wall that says “bad international reputation” will disappear. And even though it’s been a long time coming, if we join hands together in unity and sing, with one loud voice, the words of Sam Cook’s song “A Change Is Gonna Come” the walls of decadence, despair and poverty will come down.
My people of St. Kitts and Nevis, when those walls come down we will, I promise you, I commit to you, that we will walk together and we will drink the milk and honey and we will share in the prosperity of the great land which we call St. Kitts and Nevis. When we break down the walls, together we will build an education system that prepares our children to be the very best in the world, starting from early childhood. Together we will build opportunities where people will come and invest and be true partners with Kittitians and Nevisians that will bring sustainable investment and long term, high paying jobs and economic opportunities for our people. Together we will redefine our tourism product so that people will want to come and experience our beautiful land and our beautiful people. Together we will build opportunities through renewable energy resources and agriculture that will ensure a sustained high quality of life for the people of this country.
My fellow citizens and residents, I know that times have been hard, 2013 was a most difficult year for all of us but things can get better and will get better if we all act together to get the change that we all need and we all deserve.
God bless you.
And may God bless the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
I thank you.