Comrades, let us give an especially warm welcome to our invited guests today. Thank you.
[To the membership]:
WE ARE the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party.
And THIS is our seventy-ninth party conference.
WE are the children of Bradshaw. And Southwell. And France. And Sebastian. And all of the men, women, and children who cut the cane. And dropped the soda. And loaded the engines. And laboured in the sugar industry, whether in the green valleys and planes of our rural areas or whether in urban Basseterre, steps away from the St Kitts (Basseterre) Sugar Factory.
We are the children of Manchester. And Challenger. And all those who were not “of” us, but who saw us. And saw the injustice. And the oppression. And eventually stood with us. As we stood – brave, determined, and united – for ourselves.
Today, more than any other day Comrades, I remind us:- We are the children of a good story. A great story. A historic story. Because we are the children of right triumphing over wrong. Justice over injustice. Ability over privilege.
We are Labour!!! You are Labour!!! And Labour is you!!! Do you remember what our elders told us, Comrades? What starts wrong in the morning cannot end right at night. And abour started right. Not every political Party can say that. Some political parties started very, very wrong, and we all know that you cannot plant sour orange and reap sugar cane.
You cannot sow in dusty, barren soil and reap a bountiful harvest. And so we stand here today, seventy-nine years strong and the largest, strongest, most respected party in this country because our party – the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party – was planted not in the soil of might, but in the soil of right. Not in the soil of exclusion, but in the soil of inclusion. Not
in the soil of wickedness but in the soil of mercy. Not in the soil of privilege, but in the soil of ability. Not in the soil of sabotage and subterfuge, but in the soil of hard work, determination, and unity. And, we, Comrades [you, and I, and these two islands that we now have the honour and the duty, by the grace of God, to protect and defend] are the fruit…..the yield…..the joyous and bountiful harvest of our forefathers’ labours
We, Comrades, are Labour. And do you remember the words to that old hymn of faith and courage:
Let us echo them together…
“We, shall not be………we shall not be moved. Like a tree planted by the River, we
shall not be moved!!!” We are here by the Grace of God. We are here by the will of the electorate. We are here through the power of the ballot and we….shall…..not…..be……moved.
Oh Comrades. What a story of vision, and unity, and triumph this Labour Party has to tell.
How bravely and skillfully we have withstood every onslaught – from the very dawn of our existence.
And how we have prevailed! How we have triumphed! Emerging after each and
every act of trickery, and each and every show of treachery, stronger than we
What is Labour – really?
What is it that makes some people want to stand with us? And what is it that
has always made some wish to see Labour weakened……silenced……defeated? Think about it. Labour is the voice of the people. Labour is the will of the people. Labour represents the dreams, the aspirations, the strivings, and the full and unbowed humanity of the people.
But there are those who have always felt, and who feel even today, that the will of the people, the voice of the people, the dreams and hopes and aspirations of the people must be contained…..must be diverted……must be skillfully channeled in other directions, until they are no more. By hook or by crook. We understood that seventy-nine years ago. And understand that now. And Labour marches on! There have been so many attempts to weaken and break our party throughout our history. When one approach doesn’t work, they simply try another.
They began by forbidding us – by law – from forming a Party………being a Party……calling ourselves a Party……functioning like a Party. The older members of the Political Party know about that and you should explain this to the younger generations, Comrades.
These are things they need to know. But they also need to know how, prohibited from forming a political Party, we, the people, simply called ourselves The Workers League instead. After all, a rose by any other name smells just as sweet. We refused back then to be distracted or broken by the fact that we could not call ourselves a political Party. Instead we simply continued to stand tall, stand firm, and stand united, and not be sidetracked. Not be distracted. And definitely not be defeated as we continued labouring to secure for everyone in this country what others thought should belong to just a few.
And what are these?
The right to vote. The right to a high school education. Security for our old age. Health care for all. And on and on. You know all the rest……Let me say that again – from the moment of its birth some seventy-nine years ago, the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party has refused to be sidetracked, refused to be distracted, refused to be defeated in our determination to get for every man, woman, and child in this country what some thought should belong to just a few. And for the next seventy-nine years, that is exactly what we are, again going to do.
Let us never forget that it was in the midst of the extreme economic hardship and the humiliating social degradation of the 1930’s that Labour first planted the seeds of access, opportunity, upward mobility, economic security – and equality! Seeds that one Labour Government after another has continued to tend and water ever since, with each new Labour Government coming forth with new seeds as the time and the circumstances changed.
The Rt Excellent Sir Robert Bradshaw affectionately called “Papa Bradshaw” put shoes on the people’s feet. Thankful for that but today, this Labour Government gave the people their own land on which to walk in those shoes, and their own houses in which to keep them.
Bradshaw opened the high schools to all the young people of this country. Thankful for that, this Labour Government with Student Loans and Scholarships opened the doors of the world’s universities to our young people, the corridors of which they are walking with pride, dignity and a sense of accomplishment… Bradshaw and his fellow-visionaries protected the rights of the cane-field workers and lifted them up. Thankful for that, this Labour Government has placed and continue to place Kittitian and Nevisian farmer-entrepreneurs in the former cane-fields – this time as masters of their own destinies. Seventy-five years of planting, and tending, and watering, Comrades, with each Labour Government building on the efforts of the one that served before.
And what a bountiful harvest we have reaped. What a bountiful harvest we are continuing to reap. What a bountiful harvest we shall indeed reap through hard work, vision, and unity.
Today, we, the children of Bradshaw, and France, and Southwell……we, the children and grandchildren of the sugar cane workers – are now government clerks and bank employees. Teachers and lawyers. Artists and engineers. Daycare workers and doctors. Hotel workers and small businesspeople. We are religious ministers. And writers. And drummers. And everything in between. And we, the children of all those who have gone before, we, the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, have been elected by the people, in free and fair elections, not once, not twice, not three times, but four times to manage the affairs of this blessed land. And we shall go on for a fifth, and sixth, and seventh because we shall not be moved!
Thank God, for his mercies.
May He forever guide and direct us as we strive to protect, and defend, and uplift the people of this country. The old people in those cane fields may not have been educated – in the formal sense of the word. But they truly were wise. The Anansi and Brer Tookuhmuh
stories their grandmothers told them surely taught them how to spot all forms of tricks and treachery – no matter how skillfully disguised. And it taught them the importance of knowing, from an early age, that “All skin teeth…..” You know the rest, Comrades. And it was these stories, these fables really, and their wisdom, passed on from one generation to the next, that helped Labour to stand firm, and stand united, as others set one trap after another for us – for almost 80 years now.
These traps have taken many forms over the years, because there are, indeed, many ways to skin a cat. If one way of weakening Labour does not work, some people believe, then maybe another will. But that saying “Unity is Strength” is as old as the hills, and has rung out across the millennia, because it is true. And it is, indeed, our unity and our spirit as “Labour people” that has indeed been the source of our tremendous strength all these years.
How vast and varied the tactics that have been used to break this Party. And how abysmally they have all failed. One of the earliest tactics, as I’ve said, was to block us – by law – from forming a political Party. The thought at that time being that if we had no
official Party, we would lose heart and fall apart.
Not Labour. Instead, we rose to the occasion. We stood together functioning as The Workers League, and kept moving in our determination to win the rights we did not yet have, create a country in which all voices could be heard, and to build a state in which the dreams of the many would never be snuffed out by the whims of the few.
The seeds of this Party – our Party – were indeed planted in good soil and good deeds, Comrades. When denying us a political party did not work, some people decided that the best way to break the spirit of Labour would be to run in an election and defeat us in the polls.
They tried that in the 60’s but that did not work either because the people knew the origins of those who were trying to break Labour. They knew what they had stood for, and they knew that they had fought against them, and so the people roundly rejected them at the polls.
How does one break the spirit of Labour? That has been the question for seventy-nine years now. How do we break into that oneness of the people….that vibrant, knowing spirit….that determination to stand as one?
And then, some people actually decided that the best way to defeat Labour would be to militarily remove the lawfully elected Labour Government – that had just trounced them at the polls – by the force of arms. By a military coup, in other words. You know what I’m talking about. No need to be specific. But that did not work either. And the duly elected Labour government stood.
The only point in the entire history of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, Comrades, when we allowed the plotters and the planners to gain the upper hand, was when the death of our founding fathers sent us all into a tailspin of pain and mourning, confusion and dissension, suspicion and division.
And it was our own division – and our own carelessness, really – that WE gave to some people a victory that they could never have gotten any other way. Never again, Comrades.
Let me remind you of just one more of the vast and varied tactics that some have used to break our spirit and break our Party.
Masses House has always been a major symbol of Labour as political force. For as long as any of us can remember. But then, our internal divisions sapped us of our strength, muddied our focus, and made us lose our way, causing us, by our own divisions, to clear the path for those who care only about the few, to form the Government over the many. And one of the first things the anti-Labour interests did when they formed the Government, in order to further disorient us as a Party, and strip us of unifying symbols, was to demand that Masses House pay its loan to National Bank in full.
But that did not work either. And from St. Peters to Verchilds, and from Molyneux to McNight, people brought their hundred dollars and their twenty dollars….their ten dollars and their one dollars…..they brought their fifty cents and their ten cents and whatever else they could and paid off the debt because they understood that it was not really Masses House that the anti-Labour forces were going after. It was them. It was the unity, and their cohesion, it was their strength. It was the political resonance that Labour and
Masses House represented that had to be destroyed.
And now, Comrades, here we are in 2011. With a tradition of unity, resilience, and tangible, quantifiable progress to defend and build upon. The call of Labour is not specific to any one period of history, Comrades. It is, instead, a movement of generations, where one generation builds on the works and the accomplishments of the one that came before. In an era of great global turbulence, your Government and your Party have done an extraordinary job of protecting this tiny and special country that we all love. We have had neither the closing of schools, the closing of hospitals, the massive dumping of real
estate, nor any of the major traumas that have battered some of the world’s
most powerful nations.
Have we, like every other country, felt the effects of the global downturn? Most assuredly.
But at the same time, our major projects have moved forward. Our infrastructure has expanded. Our structures of governance are solid and stable. Our collaboration with regional and international entities in defense of the social, economic, and national security interests of the state move forward, unabated. And the policies that we put in place to stabilize us, when so many nations seemed to be sinking, have now begun to bear fruit. That’s why today we can echo with pride the theme of this Conference “Planting seeds today for Tomorrow’s Harvest”
Comrades, the past few years has been very challenging and we have had to use all our skills and experience to keep the ship of state on course, in very turbulent waters. It has not been easy and we know that our people have been called upon to make significant sacrifices but I am convinced that these sacrifices are well worth it.
Specifically, we have had to introduce VAT to stabilize our public finances that was so badly affected by the global recession. At the same time, we have had to streamline the operations of public corporations with a view to enhancing their efficiency and reducing their claims on scarce financial resources of the central government. Moreover, we were forced to restructure the very generous subsidies that we provided to electricity consumers in our Federation. This has combined with increases in commodity prices all over the face of the globe, to increase our inflation rate and create new challenges for our households.
It is very clear, however, that our actions have helped to avert a potential crisis that could have been far more devastating on our people. Moreover, we are already seeing signs that our decisive policy actions will bring substantial long-term benefits for our Federation. For instance, earlier this year, the Government’s bank overdraft account which, at times, has reached hundreds of millions of dollars, was in the black, indicating that for the first time in many years, the Government recorded a positive bank balance. We are also pleased that the St. Kitts Air and Sea Ports Authority is now reporting monthly profits after a prolonged period of losses and negative cash flows.
It is not surprising therefore that the IMF has projected, in its April 2011 Regional Economic Outlook, that for 2011 our primary surplus could reach 2.9% of GDP which would be substantially higher than the average of 1% projected for the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union. At the same time, it is expected that economic growth will pick up and reach 1.5% in 2011. We believe that as global conditions improve, our policy initiatives will yield even greater benefits and will set the stage for a sustained reduction in national debt.
Times may change, and circumstances may change, but the need for policies that are grounded in the interests of the people is always pressing and real. And this is the area in which Labour has always distinguished itself….This is the reason that the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party was established in the first place. And this is the area in which Labour has always, and will always, deliver.
Lastly, Comrades, let us remember who and what we are. Parties come, and Parties go. Some are little more than a letterhead and a microphone. The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, however, is a Party that is built on structure. We are a Party that is built on process. We are a Party that understands, and has always understood, the importance of procedure because we learned a long time ago that the moment that we abandon the procedures and structures within which we, as an established and respected organization function, is the day we fall into one of the most dangerous traps that have been set by so many across
these many, many years. And we, in Labour, know a trap when we see one.
Throughout the ages, Comrade, Labour has successfully expanded options for all. We often say, and it is true, that Labour put in place, and will continue to put in place, policies and programs that have made the poor, working class. The working class, middle class. The middle class wealthy. Because we want all in this country to be able to go as far as their interests, their talents, and their energies will allow. For we are the Government of all the people.
At the same time, we recognize, Comrades, that material progress is not all. And this is why, even as we strive to work for the economic advancement for all, and even as we enhance the training and equipment of our security forces in our battle against crime, we have also started an important national conversation. And this was begun in Parliament a few weeks ago when we began to reflect, and indeed invited the nation to reflect, on what aspects of our public behaviour, our public utterances, our social habits [our dance and song and the way we relate, one to the other] we will have to change in our determination to stamp out lawlessness and waywardness….in our determination to gain the upper hand on violence and crime. Because Labour has always changed St. Kitts and Nevis for the better.
We, Comrades, inside this St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, must talk about a range of issues. As we always have. And as we always will. Succession, for example, is an important issue because I, like you, want this Party that we all love to continue, from one generation to another, to work for and protect the interests of the people. And together, we in the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party will decide on this issue. By ourselves and for ourselves. Just as we have decided on so much else. We, inside this Labour Party, understand fully that whether it is the attempted sale of Masses House, the attempted coup against an earlier Labour government, the attempt to deny us our own political party, or anything else – we must and will remain resilient and united – as Labour. We shall lock arms and focus on the road ahead – as Labour. We are qualified, energized, and day in, day out, handling the complex tasks of Governance – as Labour. We will discuss and debate, agree and disagree, within this Conference, within the National Executive, and within Cabinet – as Labour.
Unity and cohesion made our founding fathers the giants that they were, and it is that same unity, and cohesion, and commitment that has enabled us, in this generation, to win the support and trust of the people time and time again. This we shall continue to do, Comrades, because whatever the aims and objectives of others, our goal and our responsibility; and our task and our mission is now, and must forever be, the preservation, the strengthening, and the expansion of the extraordinary and unsurpassed record of accomplishment, and the extraordinary and unsurpassed record of positive transformation that is Labour!
Thank you Comrades.
God bless St. Kitts and Nevis, and God bless the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party
Long live Labour!
Long live the Comrades of Labour!
Long live the people of St. Kitts and Nevis