It therefore comes as no surprise that the days which have ensued have been marked by spirited endeavours to truly seize and size up the work and the worth of this man who emanated from the bosom of Barnes Ghaut.
Although Dr. Daniel was born of humble beginnings and ordinary means, he would clearly move to achieve extraordinary things in the eyes of his people. For those who conversed with him privately or even recall his historical reflections via radio, you will remember his constant caution for Nevisians not to forget their history, the conditions which once existed, how far Nevis had to travel and how much it has been transformed.
As I sit and reflect upon the significant improvements in the physical and social infrastructure of the island, I believe that it is a testimony to Dr. Daniel’s efforts that even without the trade union platform that other islands such as St. Kitts and Trinidad possessed, he and his colleagues in the NRP were still able to agitate and achieve many of the things associated with such a movement in order to ensure the social welfare of our people. While he may not have had the benefit of certain institutional agents for change, what he did have is love for country and a desire to leave it better than he met it.
I vividly recall an in depth conversation we shared one year ago when he indicated that it was never his intention to enter representational politics. After he returned home from studies in England, he was just focused on establishing his legal practice and getting his professional career off the ground. In fact, even before he gave politics a serious blink, the seeds of the NRP were already sown by other like-minded patriots, such as the Hon. Uhral Swanston and the Hon. Ivor Stevens. However, they needed a leader and someone to champion the constitutional cause of political Independence for Nevis. In Dr. Daniel, they felt as though they had found the ideal individual.
Initially, he turned down their request to join the party but he said to me that it was one afternoon as he was walking home to Barnes Ghaut and he looked at the condition of the roads and realised that there were other basic features of the common life which his people were being deprived that he said to himself, “This isn’t right. Nevisians deserve far better than this.” At this point, his perspective changed and he decided to accept leadership of the NRP, as they collectively sought to place Nevis on a path of peace, progress and prosperity.
Although much has been said about the type and degree of development that took place post-1992, after Dr. Daniel demitted office, even that, I believe, needs to be placed in its appropriate context. For Nevisians must not forget that it was only one year before he made his departure from government that the Four Seasons Resort, through his persistence and procurement, finally opened its doors on Nevis.
Nevisians must not ignore the fact that it was this singular development that significantly changed the socio-economic landscape of this country and enabled the administrations which came after to implement their plan for infrastructural advancement, via the significant revenue which the resort created.
It must not be lost on Nevisians who now own homes in Bath and Cherry Gardens that it was through Dr. Daniel’s ingenuity that the Nevis Land and Housing Development Corporation was established, thus enabling them to become proud home owners.
The students at the Sixth Form College must not take it for granted that it was because of his vision and desire to see our people have their own indigenous institutions for educational advancement why Dr. Daniel established the Nevis Sixth Form College.
When we examine the significant degree of autonomy that Nevis has within the Federal structure, compared to other islands in similar arrangements, such as Tobago and Barbuda, we must be eternally grateful to Dr. Daniel for demanding that we have our own Island Administration and our own Island Assembly; both of which yielded unto us our own Ministers of Government, our own Treasury and our own ministries to manage.
Although some may not have been willing and open-minded enough to admit to these far reaching developments then, I am pleased to see that many have grown to finally acknowledge and appreciate the magnitude of his achievements now.
To be sure, in every way imaginable, the work of Dr. Simeon Daniel is interwoven into the tapestry of our island’s development. Moreover, I do not believe that I would be stretching the truth when I posit that almost every major politician we have had in this country is closely connected to Dr. Daniel. Indeed, it is arguable, that had he not been, they may not have been either.
Whether it is the Hon. Joseph Parry whom he made Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Nevis Affairs and eventually gave the NRP stronghold of St. Thomas’, whether it is the Hon. Mark Brantley to whose academic, professional and political career he provided much impetus, be it the Hon. Victor Jay Martin whom he recruited and made a Senator in the Nevis Island Assembly or even the Hon. Vance Amory whom he appointed to be his trusted Permanent Secretary of Finance; all of these men were direct beneficiaries of the inspiration and investment of Dr. Simeon Daniel.
Accordingly, it can hardly be any wonder as to why he is widely acknowledged and acclaimed as being “The Father of Modern Nevis”. For just as he served as a father figure to the aforementioned political personalities, so too did he father and nurture the hopes and dreams of every Nevisian. Hopes and dreams which would pave the way for a progressive type of development and an emboldened way of thinking. A thinking that we could be more than others told us we could be and that we must develop self pride, national pride, Nevisian pride. A thinking that we were not too small, too weak or too meagre to develop our own Nevisian institutions, managed by our own Nevisian people. A thinking that size was not solely determinant of our capacity to achieve and that whatever it is we lacked in population or geographical expanse, it could be compensated for by the immense talents and capabilities of our people. These are but some of the equally intangible facets of Dr. Daniel’s contribution which complemented the concrete developments that he provided us.
However, as I sit and reflect on the monumental role played by Dr. Daniel in our island’s development, I can’t help but draw my mind to all that has been said of the failure to date to substantively honour him. For my part, I will never ever veer away from the belief that a great, if not ideal opportunity presented itself in 2002 at the renaming ceremony of the new airport terminal – a symbol of the significant strides and infrastructural progress that Nevis had made and which Dr. Daniel initially championed. Regrettably, this opportunity was botched when petty partisan interests were allowed to usurp patriotic ideals and country took a backseat to self.
Nonetheless, I would hope that Dr. Daniel can still be honoured for his immense contribution to this fair land of ours. There exists the possibility of conferring upon him posthumously, the Order of the National Hero for the critical role that he played in the political evolution of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Additionally, consideration should be given to naming the area comprising the government offices in Charlestown, “The Simeon Daniel Administrative Complex” and pursuant to this, erect a statue that is representative of this giant of a man. In my opinion, it would be a fitting honour and symbolic gesture to Dr. Daniel, since it is due to his pioneering efforts why we are so fortunate to even have the Nevis Island Administration and the concomitant right to substantial internal self-government.
What I also believe to be equally critical is the need to refine the Social Studies and History program in our schools. It is most unfortunate that over the years so little room has been afforded to educating our students about the contribution of Dr. Daniel and his contemporaries, compared to the time spent bombarding them with stories of grandeur about Christopher Columbus and Lord Nelson.
Consequently, it should have come as no major surprise that so many young people knew so little of what Dr. Daniel did for Nevis or were rendered incapable of appreciating his achievements until the recent video tributes started pouring in. Many could not fully comprehend his contribution until footage of past speeches was removed from the dark and desolate storerooms.
This says something and should serve to indicate that the greatest honour which we could give to this our founding father is to ensure that those just born and yet unborn, will come to understand the measure of his deeds and the fixity of purpose with which he and his colleagues in the NRP moved to make life better for all Nevisians. To this end, our education system must properly reflect such an effort.
As the chapter closes on the life of Dr. Daniel and we all sit in sober contemplation of his contribution, there are many who presently weep for regrettably having lost him. However, let us not allow such grief to overshadow our gratitude for the wonderful opportunity given to us to have actually had him. Dr. Daniel served with utmost distinction and dignity, and if I could somehow sum up the mood of this moment and the latitude of his legacy, I would choose to paraphrase an excerpt from the eulogy of the Hon. Victor Jay Martin and say, “From Butlers to Bath, from Newcastle to New River, in every village, on some street and in some alley; on some hill and in some valley, Nevisians throughout this land will forever embrace and remember this one man………SIM DANIEL!”