by: Dr The Honourable Ralph E. Gonsalves Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines
RECLAMATION OF INDEPENDENCE
Forty-four years ago, on October 27, 1979, St Vincent and the Grenadines formally reclaimed its political Independence from British colonialism; affirmed its status, juridically, as a sovereign nation; and embarked upon a quest of a better life for its people in hope, faith, and love.
The Preamble to our nation’s Constitution expressed in majestic language the principles and ideals which our Founding Fathers and Mothers resolved, in freedom, to be our compass and our guide for our collective journey:
“WHEREAS the Peoples of the Island of Saint Vincent, who are known as Vincentians — have affirmed that the Nation is founded on the belief in the supremacy of God and the freedom and dignity of man; desire that their society be so ordered as to express their recognition of the principles of democracy, free institutions, social justice and equality before the law; realise that the maintenance of human dignity presupposes safeguarding the rights of privacy of family life, of property and the fostering of the pursuit of just economic rewards for labour.”
The affirmation, desire, and realisation set out in the respective limbs of the Preamble are pregnant with meaning for our lives, living, and production. They enjoined us to be social individuals, to be clothed with the garment of individual liberty and responsibility, yet to be in communion with each other in our family, our society, bound in an existential social solidarity.
OUR CITIZENSHIP, OUR ROOTEDNESS
Each of us as individual citizen is thus accorded a bundle of rights and obligations within the particular landscape and seascape defined as the geographic space of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This precious rootedness of citizenship — the highest office in our nation — binds us together with ties that cannot be broken. It is therefore right and proper for us to insist that the office of citizen must never be sold as a mere commodity; and our passport, the outward sign of the inward grace of citizenship, is also not a transactional commodity for sale.
This fundamental embrace of the rootedness and grace of citizenship has, collectively, brought us safe thus far; and it will rightly lead us home in the making of a whole son and a whole daughter, amidst all the fevered vicissitudes, and changing scenes, of life and living. Our National Anthem reflects this: This blessed isle and its mountains high, so clear and green, “are home to me, though I may stray; a haven calm serene.”
The rootedness of “home to me, though I may stray” may be hard for some to define, but it is an existential core to our human souls. We have roots by virtue of our belonging, our bonds of oneness, our real and natural participation, actively, in the life of an alive community with its especial history of joys and pain and its promising expectations for the future of an enduring peace, justice, security, and prosperity for all. This future does not come without hard and smart work; we know instinctively that we prefer a strenuous life to a craven idleness and sullied calm.
There are those in our midst who for this or that ignoble reason are obsessed with the wanton pulling down of S. Vincent and the Grenadines and its treasured institutions; metaphorically to scorch it all to the ground in the vain, false hope of rebuilding it by their own ruinous hands; but, these jaundiced arsonists can never be entrusted with any tsk of building or reconstructing.
Similarly, a small minority of persons who have chosen the path of criminal violence and persistent vagabondry cannot, and must not, be allowed to disturb or threaten our “haven calm serene” in this our nation of expanding and brimful, legitimate opportunities, available for all who choose to embrace them.
LET US ASSERT HOME-TRUTHS
Let us assert, unequivocally, central home truths on this our 44th anniversary of the reclamation of our nation’s independence: That St. Vincent and the Grenadines is an oasis of political stability in a world of debilitating discord, conflict, and war; that St. Vincent and the Grenadine has made, and is making, substantial, and even remarkable, socio-economic progress, despite home-grown dissonances and challenges, and external burdens and impositions; that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is on the right track in enhancing markedly its strengths and possibilities in the interest of the people, despite the restraint of certain weaknesses and limitations; that the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are far better off today than in 2001; that the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are far better off today than in October 1979; and that the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, especially the young, have a bright and promising future.
RECOVERY AND RECONSTRUCTION
The recovery and reconstruction in our country have been truly impressive in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, the volcanic eruptions of 2021, Hurricane Elsa and storms, drought and land degradation, and global turmoil. But there is much more recovery and reconstruction to be effected.
The raw socio-economic statistics, indicators, and overall development, point overwhelmingly to our country being on the right track: Economic growth in excess of 6 percent last year, over 5 percent estimated for this year, and almost 5 percent projected for next year; job-creation is expanding in many economic sectors; there is a construction boom currently ongoing which is stretching the limits of our country’s capacity; the Education, Health, and Housing Revolutions are broadening and deepening apace; the social safety nets for the vulnerable, poor, and marginalised are being strengthened as never before; inflation has declined markedly from last year to this year and is projected to decline to a modest 2.4 percent next year; wages and salaries have risen, and are rising further, generally, and for particular skill sets, including in the areas of construction, agriculture, tourism, and information technology; the physical infrastructure in our country is being boosted; sports and culture are on a further rise; the process of regional integration is being consolidated and expanded; and our nation’s foreign policy is bringing benefits and high esteem to our people at home and abroad.
And there is more to record. Yet, there is much which remains to be done.
THE GOVERNMENT HAS A PLAN
The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has shown that it has a comprehensive plan for our country’s further development and is at work implementing it. There are four bases which we emphasise: Nothing is possible without people; nothing is doable without high quality strategic leadership; nothing is achievable without the mobilization of the requisite resources; and nothing is sustainable without specially-crafted institutions. Let these eight words ring in our ears: People, Leadership, Resources, Institutions; Possible, Doable, Achievable, Sustainable. Last year September, I laid it all out in my book A TIME OF RESPAIR: FRESH HOPE FOR ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES.
In forming and pursuing our developmental agenda, in the people’s interest, it is necessary and desirable for us to form efficacious partnerships with our friends and allies overseas. Our government has strengthened significantly our practical and principled friendships with our traditional allies, and have further broadened fresh alliances and friendships across the globe, in our people’s interest. We are friends of all and we strive for a better world. To be sure, we will not abandon our tried and tested friends; we will not pursue mirages; we will not succumb to imperial dictates, neither will we embrace any would-be hegemon of tomorrow. And we will never allow those who hanker for our citizenship and passport, and their dastardly co-conspirators, to undermine our democracy and treasured institutions; we will always put country above party. We will not sell our country for a mess of pottage. Judas Iscariot has never been in our people’s make-up.
Our people are disciplined; we work hard and smart; overwhelmingly we are law-abiding and patriotic. Our people must resist the temptations of atomised individualism and avoid the mimicry of “second hand” lives and living. We must reaffirm our commitment to social solidarity, social democracy, our Caribbean civilisation and its magnificent Vincentian component, the construction of a worthy post-colonial economy, and the uplifting outcomes which better our lives, living, and production. Always be knowledgeable, understanding, and wise!
Let us celebrate wisely our 44th Anniversary of Independence!