CHARLESTOWN, Nevis — The following is an address by Hon. Mark Brantley, Premier of Nevis on the occasion of the 37th Anniversary of Independence of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
My fellow citizens and residents,
‘Today September 19 is a wonderful day that the Lord has made in our blessed land of beauty. Let us be thankful and rejoice in it. Today, we come together as a people united with a shared destiny to celebrate the birth of our nation. Thirty-seven years ago we forged our independence on the crucible of hope and optimism, with boundless faith in our ability to determine our own destiny. Thirty-seven years ago, with purpose and vision, we boldly severed our colonial appendages and charted a course of self-determination.
“This milestone in our nation’s history is celebrated under the theme “Resilience, Innovation and Security for Independence 2020.” This theme inspires us to demonstrate our resolve and indomitable spirit in facing the challenges that confront our nation today. It calls for our resourcefulness, our creativity and a new level of thinking among our people. It prompts us to give focused attention to the security of our food supply, our health and the overall wellbeing of our people.
“An anniversary, by its very nature, is a time for much jubilation and celebrating. It is also an occasion for introspection, stock taking and planning. This is routinely done on our birthdays, reunions and wedding anniversaries. On this, our nation’s birthday, it ought to be no different. Today should be seen as a time of self-reflection, meaningful engagement and dialogue. It should not only be a day of celebration and for donning of the national wear and colours, but it should also be a day when we remember the struggle of our fore parents and the sacrifices that they made on our behalf.
“Today, I pay tribute to our fore parents who toiled incessantly and suffered greatly for the cause of freedom. We today are the beneficiaries of their dreams and aspirations of a free and independent nation. Today we stand proudly on the shoulders of these giants who came before us and who, through their struggle, pain and suffering, continue to inspire us.
“Our thirty-seven years of independence have not always been easy. We have had our fair share of challenges, miscues and missteps. Like so many of our neighbours in this our Caribbean civilization, we have had our struggles with destructive natural disasters, debilitating national debt, the scourge of crime and violence and presently, the dreaded coronavirus. These, however, have not managed to diminish our successes and triumphs. As a nation we have excelled in every facet of human endeavour.
“In education, sports and culture, we have produced great icons that have made us proud. We have managed to grow our economy and reduce poverty. We have fostered an enviable rate of literacy and we have created a truly integrated and inclusive society.
“These achievements can be only attributed to the grace of God, the hard work and discipline of our people, prudent government policies and the solidarity of our families and friends across the globe.
“Regrettably brothers and sisters, we are celebrating this year’s independence in the throes of a pandemic that has tested us individually and collectively. We have been beaten on the anvil of selflessness and forged in the cauldron of sacrifice. Over the past months as we battled this virus, I have seen and witnessed the best of our people. I have seen neighbours, families, friends and strangers giving a helping hand to those in need, offering comfort and support whenever they could. I have seen boundless kindness, generosity, solidarity and support in the midst of a crisis.
“I salute and pay deepest tribute to our frontline and essential workers who willingly sacrificed their own health and wellbeing and that of their families in the fight against COVID-19. We are humbled and deeply moved by their immense sacrifice, undying commitment and invaluable dedication as we forge ahead to reach the other side of this pandemic.
“We hail their noble contribution and effort in combatting this invisible enemy.
“To the managers of the education system, I applaud your efforts in ensuring that the strides made in our educational advancement are not undermined. The long hours spent working out logistics; acquiring and deploying resources to meet the challenges of the current crisis are duly recognized and commended.
“Teachers, I empathize with you, as this crisis introduces new challenges to an already demanding vocation. Resilience and innovation will indeed have to be the watch words of your craft as you seek to secure the success and holistic development of each student. I have every confidence in your capabilities to rise to the challenge as you have proven your grit in difficulties past.
“Parents and guardians, as the interruptions caused by the COVID-19 crisis threaten to erode the educational progress of our young people; I make the clarion call for you to rally around your children and around those who lack parental support. Partner with teachers to ensure that students get the support necessary to perform well in this new educational shift. I implore you to engage, listen to and love the youth of our nation on to success. The fate of our nation lies in the careful moulding of our youth.
“For those among us who even now suffer the pain of joblessness and despair caused by this Coronavirus pandemic I wish you to know that I share your pain. When you suffer our nation suffers. Ours is a shared struggle. My government has tried and will continue to try to do all in our power to assist to cushion the cruel blow dealt to us all by this crisis. We look forward to the imminent reopening of our borders and a restoration of some semblance of economic activity in our country.
“Fellow citizens, we must all continue to work together – the public and private sector, civil society, communities and individuals – if we are to be triumphant.
“I anticipate that some difficult days lie ahead for us as a people. Let us therefore continue to be vigilant, to be informed and to exercise every care as we navigate the realities of this changing world. Above all let us continue to pray ceaselessly for each other and for our beloved nation.
“I urge you to fear not the unknown future for, with God in all our struggles, St. Christopher and Nevis will continue to be a resilient nation. Let us be encouraged by the words of Scripture, which admonish us to welcome the testing times, as testing produces endurance.
“This nation can endure any crisis with a united front putting country above self. We are thus duty bound to work in unison to secure a better and brighter future for all. We are all in this together.
“I wish you all at home and abroad a Happy Independence, and pray that our God our Great Comforter and Redeemer will continue to guide and guard us all.
Thank you and may God continue to bless St. Kitts and Nevis.”