By Lesroy W. Williams
(Basseterre, St. Kitts)—In what could be called a heart-rending and passionate farewell address, indicative of one going out in a blaze of glory, the Hon. Dwyer Astaphan at a sitting of the National Assembly on July 31 said that he was very grateful to have been given the chance to serve the people of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis as a Minister of Government.
Mr. Astaphan spent 13 years in public service and was responsible for 13 portfolios over that period, including Tourism, Culture, Environment, Telecommunications, Information, Commerce, Consumer Affairs, National Security, Justice, Immigration and Labour.
The Minister said that by and large he felt a sense of satisfaction of having carried out his portfolios responsibly.
“Although there has never been an easy day, Sir, there have been so many gratifying days, including the more difficult ones, my gratification arising when I knew that my efforts might help someone get by or succeed in one good way or another, or when I could help put a smile on a face or an extra bit of bounce in someone’s step, or when I might have done, even a little, to elevate the pride, joy and honour of our nation,” Mr. Astaphan said.
In his address, Mr. Astaphan from time to time pointed out that his source of strength, sustenance and perseverance over his 13 year tenure was largely attributed to the intercessory prayers of prayer groups, Bible readings and his dependence on God.
He quoted passages from the scriptures that he said had guided him in times of tribulations, abuse, vilification and threats, including death threats.
The outgoing Minister quoted from Wisdom 1:1—“Love justice, you who rule the world”; Wisdom 3:15—“The toil of the righteous bears fruit and wise discernment is a tree that does not wither”; Psalm 37—“Do not be annoyed with evil people nor be envious of wrongdoers, for they will fade as any green herb and soon be gone like withered grass. Trust in the Lord and do good…” and Psalm 41—“Blessed is he who has regard for the poor. The Lord delivers in times of trouble”.
“I hereby thank God and all of the people who have made this journey with me. Especially the people of very, very limited material means but whose wealth of character, faith commitment and decency and whose abiding love have been extraordinarily inspiring to me and critically important to whatever good that I have been able to do for the people of Central Basseterre and for the people of this beloved Federation of ours,” Astaphan said.
Mr. Astaphan said that he had made friends along the way but that some enmity has also been aroused. Rumour has it that the Prime Minister and Astaphan are at loggerheads.
“There are definitely people out there and maybe in here too (National Assembly), who have developed a negative, even angry and hateful feeling towards me. If their hatred is due to something that I have said or done, or failed to say or do, and they think that it is ‘justified’ (although I cannot see how hatred can be justified), then I ask their forgiveness. And if their hatred is not ‘justified’, then I ask them to forgive themselves. I certainly forgive them. Mr. Speaker life is too short for hatred and hostility. They are both destructive to the soul, society and Mother Nature. They prevent peace, harmony and productivity. They put tears on the face of the Almighty and drive Him to wrath,” Astaphan proclaimed.
Mr. Astaphan said that the state of crime in the Federation is of much concern to him and that as the outgoing Minister of National Security he will continue to reach out to youths at risk and institutions of socialization to bring about a more positive and wholesome society.
Mr. Astaphan was critical of the Police when he said “the Police Force has to be a disciplined force again, all security agencies must function at the highest levels of integrity, professionalism, and discipline. Obviously, there is much work to be done in this area.”
He was also critical of the World Trade Organization in the new world order that it is trying to install, saying that “I see it as nothing more than an effort by mighty international corporations and interests to perpetuate their stranglehold over resources, nations and peoples.”
“I am an advocate for care and tact in approaching this going forward. And I feel the same way about any arrangement between tiny, vulnerable nations and larger, more powerful and populous ones and cartels, visible or hidden, that speaks and acts for these larger nations.”
Mr. Astaphan closed his long farewell speech by thanking his colleagues, ministerial and parliamentary for their assistance and guidance over the years.