FROM WHENCE WE CAME
“The Vision of a people, the liberation of a nation…the SKNLP 80 years of advancement through empowerment”
KEYNOTE ADDRESS TO THE ANNUAL NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS LABOUR PARTY
ON THE OCCASION OF ITS EIGHTIETH ANNIVERSARY
Delivered by the Honourable Dr. Kenny D. Anthony
Political Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party
Sunday May 20, 2012
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE HUMANITY OF LEADERSHIP.. 3
First of the Nations.. 3
THE PROGENITOR OF THE LABOUR MOVEMENT. 3
THE CARIBBEAN CONDITION.. 3
Leadership Born of Adversity.. 3
THE TANGO OF TRANSITIONS.. 3
THE HAUNT OF TRANSITIONARY POLITICS.. 3
LEADERSHIP FOR THE TIMES.. 3
A SOBERING ELECTION.. 3
THE CARIBBEAN’S CHALLENGE.. 3
DEMOCRACY WITHOUT BREAD IS DEAD.. 3
. Prime Minister & Political Leader of the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, Dr. The Honourable Denzil Douglas,
. Ministers of the Federal Government of St. Kitts and Nevis,
. Comrades and stalwarts of the St. Kitts & Nevis Labour Party,
. Comrades of other Labour Party organisations,
. Members of Trade and Labour Unions,
. Delegates, specially invited guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour that you have bestowed upon me, to deliver the feature address on the occasion of this milestone in the life of your party.
I would like to thank you for the invitation to share with you my thoughts on your remarkable journey, and also to share my vision on how we might craft eighty more! I also wish to share with you fraternal greetings and congratulations on behalf of the Saint Lucia Labour Party, your sister party in the struggle.
I am pleased to let you know that the 400 kilometres that separate Basseterre and Castries have been bridged long ago through mutual respect and the strong bonds of friendship between our leaders and our peoples. For certainly, the political synapse that binds our two parties predate independence or the Federation.
Furthermore, as fate would have it, Saint Lucia always proceeds or sits next to Saint Kitts-Nevis in the international congregations of the world. This is a perk for me. I can now get my medical advice sitting next to Dougie! Whenever we are free, of course.
Mr. Chairman, while I can guarantee you that I will not be speaking for eight years, I also cannot assure you that I will complete this address in the time it takes Kim Collins to complete a one hundred or even a two hundred metre Olympic dash.
Notwithstanding the longevity or temporal limits of this present celebratory sojourn, I trust you will lend me your ears and quiet your minds as we take a journey into the foundations and footings of what is indeed a common past, and also into the future – to explore the new possibilities that await us as a Caribbean People.
THE HUMANITY OF LEADERSHIP
Ladies and gentlemen, the world eighty years ago as compared to now was, of course, quite different. Likewise, the world eighty years from this day will be distinctive, possibly unrecognisable in some ways. Yet, despite all the changes in mindsets, in priorities, in quality of life, in technology and even in the way we organise ourselves, there are some immutable requirements that we require if we are to continue progressing healthily along the unstoppable sands of time.
If we were to step back for a moment and consider our humanity, we would agree that there are some traits and behaviourisms that are innately coded into society, both individually and collectively, which make us a unique species: our ability to feel compassion and care for one another; our desire to communicate, to bond – to find a lingua franca regardless of differences; our desire to make life easier and better through technology and adapting to our environment; and also our strong desire and intrigue with ourselves, our identities. As primal as these humanistic qualities may be, they flourish even more in the presence of leadership and organisation. If we think about it, a measure of our civilisation is a measure of how much specialisation we engage in; and yet such specialisation cannot exist without the immutable presence of direction and leadership.
Leadership is an integral ingredient in the movement of societies. The coagulation of mankind from nomad, to village dweller, to city state, and even into the operator of transnational institutions in this current era, was not likely to have been achieved without transformational leadership.
Of course comrades, the political party exists because of the desire to lead. The political party survives in response to the will of the masses. It must live to express, to protect and to advance the will of the masses. Without the masses the party perishes.
The people of St. Kitts and Nevis will continue to look to the Labour Party for this direction, and the Labour Party must deliver the leadership that the country needs, and must have to survive, now and tomorrow.
First of the Nations
Comrades, your state has always been a leader in the Caribbean. In history, St. Kitts has the unique title as the Mother Colony of the British and the French West Indies, as it was the first island to be co-inhabited by these powers at a time when they were jostling for more than the spoils of piracy, in what was then a seventeenth century New World dominated by Iberian powers.
The colonisation of the Europeans led by Thomas Warner and Pierre D’Esnambuc was sanguine and sordid. To encapsulate this by using a recant immortalised in the road march song for Saint Lucia’s 1991 calypso season, it was a “world of Rambo diplomacy” (Black Eye, Jah T). It is ignobly present in the names of Bloody Point and Bloody River set on your land. By 1626, Saint Kitts was centrally placed as the base from which our Lesser Antilles was captured in the name of European regents. The rest of the history of colonisation is known to you, I am sure – the shifting of fields from tobacco into sugar cane, and the institutionalisation of slavery to sustain the political economy of the times.
THE PROGENITOR OF THE LABOUR MOVEMENT
Yet, while being the mother of colonies of the West Indies, Saint Kitts was also the progenitor of the labour movement in the Antilles. It was from here in St. Kitts in 1935 that the first of a series of workers’ actions brought light to the appalling conditions that existed in the West Indies at that time, almost a century after Emancipation.
As early as 1926, the Pan-Caribbean labour movement began coalescing, with the first meeting of the British Guiana and West Indies Labour Conference passing resolutions calling for Compulsory Education, Universal Adult Suffrage and Federation. Like in Saint Lucia, it was the Labour Party that championed the rights of the working class, the poor and the indigent. In the case of Saint Kitts, formation came earlier than that of the Saint Lucia Labour Party, which occurred in 1950.
The Caribbean economy of that time, barring the mineral extraction of Trinidad and Guyana, was wholly based on agricultural production, and in islands like St. Kitts, Barbados and Antigua, sugarcane was entrenched and seemingly immovable from the landscape, except of course at harvest time.
Comrades, there was no equality for neither man nor woman. It was worse for those whose livelihoods were tied to the estate, and dependent upon the wage for survival. It was the desire of the colonial rulers to maintain a pax plebiae, a peace of poverty, so to speak – an unreal calm that was constructed upon injustice, poverty and unbridled discrimination. The social conditions that underscored the Caribbean man were poor at best and, more often than not, abject altogether. Barracks and huts were the homes of the masses. Wages were picayune and in some instances were substituted by land for subsistence. It makes sense then, that in an island like St. Kitts, so virulently engrossed by these oppressive colonial realities, that the inertia to change would be overcome.
This caulderon of despair awakened many, our artists, our labour activists, our patriots, and our emerging intellectuals.
THE CARIBBEAN CONDITION
One of our own, young William Arthur Lewis, at the age of twenty-three, while attending Imperial College, London, pursuing his doctoral studies in Economics at the time, put forward a useful reference describing the socio-economic cauldron out of which was born social change for the lot of the common poor. Through the socialist group, the Fabian Society, Lewis was able to publish in 1938, a literary work looking at the birth of the workers’ movement, called Labour in the West Indies. The adversity of the Caribbean condition at this time shaped an intellectual leader for the entire world, so much so that Arthur Lewis still remains the only black man to have won a Nobel Prize in a category other than Peace or Literature. It is from his writing that we can gain some insight to the times.
Lewis saw 1935 as the starting year for the change, and he noted the general strike in St. Kitts as the first of many upheavals. Writing from London in 1938, he says of St. Kitts:
“This island, which experienced the first of the recent series of explosions, is a tiny member of the Leeward group with a population of less than 20,000. It consists almost wholly of plantations owned by Europeans; there are hardly any peasants; and the general atmosphere is most reactionary. In the twenties and early thirties there was a fairly militant Representative Government Association led by some members of the middle classes, but this was mainly concerned with political questions. There have also been a number of working class societies, of which the Workers’ League and the Universal Benevolent Association are the most notable, but they have not had a large membership.
Social conditions in this colony are so much worse than elsewhere that in 1929 a West Indian Commission made them the subject of a special report, but no action was taken on this.
In the year 1935 the beginning of the sugar cane reaping season was set for 28 January, and throughout the preceding weeks labourers were discussing between themselves the necessity for wage increases. Some workers felt that no increase could be expected at the ruling price of sugar, while others thought that an increase was justifiable. However, when the 28th arrived it turned out that the employers did not intend to grant any increase.
The Governor states in his official report that the strike movement was started by some of the unemployed labourers in the capital. A group of these started to march round the island persuading the workers on the plantations to strike for an increase of wages. Their numbers grew steadily; the news flashed round the island, and by next morning there was practically a general strike.
Trouble arose when a crowd invaded an estate to demand higher wages from the proprietor. He fired upon them, wounding three. The crowd determined to beat him up, …. the police … were unable to disperse the people until they had opened fire, killing three and wounding eight. With this the spirit of the strikers was broken. The police arrested large numbers, a warship arrived, and in a few days everyone was back at work – except the many were consigned to prison on various charges and others whom the employers refused to take back. Wages were not increased.
This sporadic upheaval left hardly any permanent mark. It was not led by any organisation, and with its collapse the workers were left merely with the discouragement of failure.” (Lewis, Labour in the West Indies, 1977, p.19-20)
This discouragement, produced by the failure of the strike created the condition for organised political action to emerge.
Leadership Born of Adversity
As this audience may well recall, the Workers’ League denoted by Lewis was formed in 1932, with Thomas Manchester as first president and J.W. Blackett as secretary. The League was able to tap into the sentiments awoken by the riots and succeeded in getting two elected representatives in the 1937 elections, Mr. Manchester and Mr. Edgar Challenger and they worked to getting legislation introduced in 1939 which made trade union activity legal in St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla.
Comrades, Buckley’s Riots also had two other notable effects.
First, it catalysed strikes throughout the Caribbean that year – in Trinidad, the oilfield workers striked and went on a hunger march; in British Guiana and St. Vincent there was unrest, and in Saint Lucia, there was a coal strike in November to close off the year. Following a trough in 1936, 1937 again saw widespread upheaval.
The approach at appeasement taken by the colonial officials led to the creation of the now famous West Indies Royal Commission in August of 1938, led by Lord Moyne and which included notably Sir Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the British Trade Union Congress. However, typical of the attitudes of its time, although the report was completed in 1940, it was not made public until after World War II, due to the Commission’s sharp criticisms of colonial policies and ostensibly, to prevent wartime propaganda. In addition to exposing the poor conditions of social services, health, housing and education and labour protection, it also looked at the political arrangements. It did not propose universal adult suffrage which was the wish of the labour movement, but allowed for a broadening of the franchise, enabling more persons to be eligible to vote and run for elected office.
Mr. Chairman, comrades, it is said that diamonds take immense heat and pressure to be formed under the earth. The events of 1935 produced a unique diamond. It inspired a young nineteen year old from the working class, sugar belt at St. Paul’s to become active in the Labour Movement. Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw entered the fold of Labour and rose to its leadership. The league was rebranded as the St. Kitts and Nevis Trades & Labour Union in 1940, and leveraged political support through the formation of the St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party. In 1944 Bradshaw took leadership of the Union, proceeding Joseph Matthew Sebastian, and by 1946 he had entered the Legislative Council, beginning his great stint dominating the politics of St Kitts and Nevis until his passing in 1978. We could of course spend hours discussing Papa Bradshaw, but as I am sure every Nevisian and Kittitian from Gingerland to Trants can stand proudly today to tell me of his contributions to this federation, I will provide only a cursory brush.
Bradshaw was not a gift to Saint Kitts and Nevis alone. His British mannerisms did not in anyway diminish his life as a great Caribbean leader and hero. He championed statehood only after the collapse of the West Indies Federation in 1962, in which he had the distinction of being its Minister for Finance. He fought vehemently any division or secession of the islands, and preferred greater autonomy over dissolution of Federation.
S. B. Jones-Hendrickson in a 1984 paper entitled Strategies for Progress in the Post-Independence Caribbean: A Bradshawian Synthesis, presented to the Caribbean Studies Association Conference held in St. Kitts that year, shared some interesting thoughts on the contribution of Bradshaw towards the liberation struggle. Insight into his curious, though not contradictory dichotomy, is offered as follows:
“Within the critical conjecture of forces that made Bradshaw a champion of the working class and an anti-plantocracy advocate was his paradoxical predilection for things British. Bradshaw seemed British to the core. But, in his multifaceted manner, the philosophy of Bradshawianism that guided him was African-based. Bradshaw regarded the colonial past as one of exploitation and humiliation. He therefore, strove to articulate a procedure that was oriented to the basic needs of the working class….he never viewed Western economic history as irrelevant to the development trajectories of developing countries in:
(1) His government’s acquisition of the sugar lands of St. Kitts;
(2) The upliftment of St Kitts and Nevis from the days of “chigger foot” and yaws;
(3) The bringing home to St. Kitts sons of the soil who were considered derelicts in Santo Domingo.
He was for his people. In all of these instances he was attempting to inject a sense of pride and power in the working class of St. Kitts. He was in a sense convincing the people that one of their strategies for progress in post-independence St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla was for them to be creators of circumstances rather than creatures of circumstances.” (Jones-Hendrickson, 1984, p.24-25).
This “sense of pride” was not better seen than in 1974. Having finally completed the state acquisition of the lands owned by the former planters, Bradshaw symbolically went to Buckley’s Estate Yard, ground zero of the 1935 events, to proclaim the nationalising of the sugar sector. Bradshaw broadened the landscape of St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla by promoting equity in ownership. Of course, the hostility, the disdain and bitter loathing by some towards Bradshaw and the Labour Party was not uniquely uncommon in those times. Leaders everywhere in the region met a similar fate. Such is the course that all leaders must face at times; but Bradshaw never wavered; he stayed the course.
Unfortunately, fate did not permit Bradshaw to see the promised land of an independent Saint Kitts & Nevis which he and the Labour Party had worked so hard for. The passing on of the baton to his long time colleague, Dominican born Paul Southwell, was short lived. Southwell died in Saint Lucia in May 1979, shortly after our own independence on February 22, 1979, while attending a meeting of the West Indies Associated States Council of Ministers.
Notwithstanding, we see the vision and the realism of Bradshaw and the party he led through his Statehood Address of February 1976. He said this:
“To be independent means that you neither depend upon nor are subordinated to anyone. Thus, as we approach the Independence which we have freely and deliberately decreed for ourselves, let us be in no doubt at all about that which we shall embark upon, for manna will not fall from heaven just like that. Let us face it knowing that it will demand on us hard work, patriotism, dedication, denial, objectivity, unity and self-respect, and we must continue to be seen actively to be helping ourselves.”
These are powerful words. They continue to resonate to this day, in the struggles that we face as a Caribbean People. Though the era of Bradshaw may be ended, the policies and philosophies underpinning Labour are not. Though our region has made great strides in developing our people – in vastly improving their quality of life and expanding their opportunities – the challenges of eighty years ago seem to be, in some measure, repeating itself.
In October of 1929, Wall Street experienced a financial crash which triggered the Great Depression, lasting the next ten years. The despondency of the 1930s, however, inspired the rise of great leaders and thinkers of our time. Now, in this current era, our world is immensely more connected by trade and technology. Though our global economic and social systems are thought to be more resilient and sophisticated, the failure or absence of leadership could be the ingredient that makes our current situations dire.
Crisis, ladies and gentlemen, requires bold, astute and courageous leadership. That is the most powerful lesson emerging from the cyclical crises that confront societies and civilizations.
THE TANGO OF TRANSITIONS
Mr. Chairman, comrades, at this juncture we should also consider the deaths of Bradshaw and Southwell in the context of what can happen with a poor transition of leadership; transitions which may conveniently be managed purely by constitutional mandate versus the mandate expressed by the people through the political party.
Frankly, we have not managed the transfer of political leadership very well. It remains a weakness in our inherited political architecture.
In all our Caribbean countries, when sudden deaths of prime ministers occur, successors are chosen by those who command the majority of the elected members of the Parliament. We have thus far witnessed transitions of leadership which, though they may be consented and affirmed by Parliamentary caucus, are not always the affirmed will of the party and the country on a whole. We have witnessed in Barbados the political impacts of the loss of Tom Adams and most recently the loss of David Thompson. In these instances, the parliamentary arms of the parties spoke and selected successors. The will of the party was ignored. The difficulty seems to be a failure to link the constitutional requirements with the democratic right of the party to select its leadership.
While the common spirit, expressed through our constitutions, is to provide for the immediate stability of the state, parties should always look more broadly in their leadership choices and be circumspect in managing such political shifts, whether they are caused by natural death, political ambition or the fulfilment of legacies. The timing of such political leadership accommodations must be synchronised with the rhythm of the political heart beat and breath, lest they become incommodes. The end result should never be unfair to the state; equally, it cannot be calamitous for the political party.
In my view, leadership is not in the gift of a prime minister to be bestowed or to be willed. A prime Minister who understands and honours democracy must yield, when the time comes, to the will of the party that created him or her. Longevity is not enough to qualify for leadership. Leadership must be earned. It is a responsibility of every leader of a political party to create and nurture an environment to allow those who aspire for leadership to explore their ability and talent so that they too may be judged at the appropriate time.
Two recent experiences, both from Jamaica commend themselves for reflections. When Patterson, and later Goldwin, decided to bow out it was their parties – not their parliamentary colleagues – which elected their replacements. Of course it is for history to determine whether their choices were for better or for worse. I believe that in both instances, it was for the better.
THE HAUNT OF TRANSITIONARY POLITICS
Transitionary politics are difficult, complex and traumatic.
I observed this first hand in our own experiences in Saint Lucia. Following Adult Suffrage, the Labour Party held power from 1950 until 1964, under the leadership of George F.L. Charles – a contemporary of Bradshaw. During this time the focus was on promoting similar ideals to those espoused in St. Kitts and Nevis at the time; those substantively being social amelioration, better working conditions and transition of our economy towards economic empowerment, which, in our case was banana production. Manoeuvring from within, John Compton and a few others managed to sway support away from the Labour Party to a new party, which he had formed with the then middle and upper class People’s Progressive Party. He used the issue of the nationalising of the Banana Growers’ Association proposed by the Labour Party to sway support away from Chief Minister George Charles.
He managed through carefully orchestrated internal shenanigans to gain power in 1964. The Labour Party was cast into the wilderness for fifteen years. It wandered in search of leadership; a fifteen year wandering in search of strong leadership and direction, before it became a force of change in the 1970s. We regained power just after independence in 1979, only to lose it three years later due to internecine warfare, camouflaged in the clothing of irreconcilable ideological differences. That experience led many to say that we could not hold onto the reigns of power without self-destruction.
The ball game changed by the 1990s. By then, the world’s economic systems were changing. The Cold War was over, the wall in Berlin was down and the USSR capitulated to democracy. Our Labour Party came in at a time when the death knell of the banana industry had sounded, however faintly. The Europeans ended protectionism without fanfare, without guilt, without compassion. Faced with the unfolding crisis and challenge, Compton made a strategic retreat by bowing out after thirty years in office. It was from then, May 23rd 1997, that I led a confident Saint Lucia Labour Party to victory. We secured a resounding 16-1 mandate.
The leadership of the Labour Party, a party that had been out of power since 1982, was of paramount concern. The Government in which I had served as a youthful senator and Minister for Education, just shortly after our 1979 Independence, faced its demise due to a leadership struggle. The ghostly fables of 79-82 haunted us and all the pundits against the Labour Party peddled the belief that our Government would not last six months, and certainly not a year. These fears fuelled a belief that only Compton could lead the country.
Thus, from 1997 we led a country which grew more confident of itself. With better management we modernised the state’s infrastructure, induced investment particularly in tourism, and improved opportunities for all. We followed your footsteps and established universal secondary education. We launched a fight against poverty and unemployment. The record of compassionate and competent governance and leadership from our Labour Party was clear during those times.
Alas, after two terms, the 2006 poll went against us, largely because of our inability to control rising crime level; the unfounded perception that the Government was corrupt. In the minds of some, cost overruns meant corruption and cover-up. I faced then the most sophisticated smear campaign ever conducted by the media in recent political history. These smear campaigns, largely centred on none other than the political leader, your humble servant. The tag line I had to endure was “Kenny’s too arrogant.”
Though Labour was removed in 2006, the country quickly realised that the basis for removal, which was strongly tied to the return of our “Father of Independence,” Sir John Compton, who was by then an octogenarian, would not be abiding. The opponents preyed on the mystique and belief that the country could somehow return to the good old days of bananas, our once green gold. It was the season for the politics of nostalgia.
LEADERSHIP FOR THE TIMES
As you may recall, Sir John passed on within months of taking office and this let loose upon the state a Cabinet of opportunism and self-aggrandisement. The leadership of the country during these times led to a crisis of confidence for citizen as well as investor. Ministers were sacked, only to coy their way back into the Cabinet. Laws and protocols were flaunted ad libitum. The cohesion and cooperation of Government suffered as fiefdoms arose, with ministers stockading their turf with impunity and without worry.
A SOBERING ELECTION
Of course, on November 28, 2011, the people again allowed me to give them a “Dougie” and returned me as Prime Minister of Saint Lucia. Even then, Mr. Chairman, victory at the polls was by no means an easy feat.
Despite our record which was clear for all to see, despite the absence of tangibility by our opponents, despite all the corruption and unanswered questions, 2011 still evolved into one of the most challenging elections ever fought by the Labour Party. Indeed, the 3,300 vote victory margin, though larger than the margin we lost by in 2006, still represents just a 4% difference of the nearly 86,000 votes cast.
Of course comrades, you too, here in Saint Kitts and Nevis, have had your moments of crisis and opportunity as a party. The untimely demise of the political marrow of the time, Bradshaw and Southwell, and the ensuing vacuum and disorganisation, caused the defeat of this party in 1980. You then embraced a leader who himself was tried and tested by adversity, as he studied medicine in Mona, Jamaica, with many times not knowing how he might pay to write his exams. Dougie’s entrance into the politics of St Kitts and Nevis enabled Labour to raise the level of quality, competent representation that the Federation was searching for during the turbulent period of the early 90s.
Your party has transformed the Kittitian and Nevisian landscape, its economic space and the quality of life, down to the street and to the home. There is no greater tribute to your leader and Prime Minister, Honourable Denzil L Douglas than this transformation. All politicians, when judgement day comes should ask themselves this simple question: Did I change the quality of life of my people?
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, comrades, yours is a proud country with a rich heritage preserved in hearts and minds even more so than fortress and sugar mill. Even with the distinction of being the smallest independent state in the Western Hemisphere, your country continues to show that quality can trump quantity.
St. Kitts and Nevis has now repositioned itself to become more reliant on services, manufacturing and construction instead of agriculture. Our Eastern Caribbean states have no choice but to place a premium on the development of every single individual into a socially active, caring and economically contributing citizen. This is the reality of our demographics. The role of the socialist party in development, therefore, continues to be relevant in knowledge economies, where value is added by intellect, innovation, creativity and connectivity, more so than raw materials, the size of one’s manufacturing plants or the infinite pool of one’s human resources.
The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party understands this in its commitment that has been manifested over the many years of service.
Did you not rebuild and modernise the J.N. France Hospital?
Did you not expand the health centres and healthcare service all throughout this Federation?
Did you not give thousands of young people the opportunity to earn a degree and pursue higher education via the student loans programme?
Which party in Government created 4,000 new homes all over these islands?
Which party attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in tourism?
Which party expanded sports facilities with Warner Park welcoming international cricket for many years now?
Which party modernised the Robert Bradshaw International Airport? And the Newcastle Airport in Nevis?
And constructed Port Zante, a cruise terminal and marina, and reclaimed over 30 acres of land for development?
Who transformed the old sugar railway into what was just recently recognised as one of the best heritage railways in the world?
Which party in Government is now allowing hundreds of acres of land that Bradshaw got back for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis to now be owned by the people through a Land Distribution Agency; empowering its people directly, to be able to go the bank to take out a loan using that land as collateral – which party my comrades, which party?
Mr. Chairman, there is no doubt that Dougie and the team of the Saint Kitts-Nevis Labour Party have delivered and have brought transformational leadership and direction to these islands. You have indeed delivered progress, not just promises.
THE CARIBBEAN’S CHALLENGE
Notwithstanding all this, comrades, the reality is that it is not easy leading a micro-state like Saint Lucia or Saint Kitts-Nevis. The expectations are great and sometimes literally at your door step. Everything we do is amplified. What may be considered a small investment in most countries is an investment size of great proportions in ours. But yet, these are necessary investments to promote economic growth. Our economies are ultimately small and sensitive, requiring dynamism, foresight and smart responses to survive.
Never before have the times required such bold, courageous and compassionate, yet firm leadership. These are the times that demand inspiration and fortitude. The leadership of our region is challenged immensely by the realities of these times. Eighty years ago, in the years of the Great Depression came unrest and social unease in our region. We were not at the forefront then leading our countries. We were subjugated, reduced to onlookers of the unfolding drama of the times until we decided that the responsibility was ours to claim our freedom, determine our fate and destiny. Eighty years later, after adult suffrage, associated statehood and independence, we now have but no excuse as we can now determine our own legacies and directions.
DEMOCRACY WITHOUT BREAD IS DEAD
Mr. Chairman, comrades, the Caribbean is crying out for responsible, proactive and visionary leadership. Our economic realities have changed. We cannot be so sure of our traditional markets as sources of foreign direct investment and economic growth. All over, people are worried about sovereign debt, about austerity, and about things many of us do not yet understand. The language of the world continues to change.
Though we all enjoy our boast of political independence and democracy, people also want to know that they can see a future for themselves and their islands. In fact, just as in the 1930s, there is a discernible restlessness especially among our youth who search for definition, purpose, opportunity and hope. Facebook, Twitter and the like, have become a social grid that the politician must grasp and embrace. Our people are anxious to have participatory democracy. Through the liberalisation of telecommunications and the continued pursuance of a laptop for every school child, empowerment is now but a click away.
All that said, fellow comrades, our people also require justice, equality, opportunity and bread. Good governance and economic sustenance must exist together, and be delivered together, for democracy without bread is dead.
Our Caribbean quandary is that we are politically independent states with our economic livelihoods almost entirely tied to externalities. That alone calls for creativity and ingenuity. These factors place a high premium on our quality of leadership. It is for that reason that more is demanded of political leadership in our region than in many other countries of the world.
But there is hope and possibility.
Opportunities now lie within our grasps thanks to the fact that technology is shifting in our favour, the favour of the small and dispersed. We have the chance to produce services all throughout the world if we tap more vigorously into Information and Communications Technologies. Already we are seeing small tech companies developing mobile applications that can be sold worldwide. I know your party understands the importance of web presence as a game changer, with the present of your party publication, the Spokesman, being online alongside your party website. There might even be new opportunities manufacturing and crafts, as we might see a revolution towards more localised production with the advent of 3D printing.
We have the ability to think about producing our own energy and thereby improve our balance of payments, which is currently tied to our dependence on diesel-based power generation. Again, I must complement St Kitts and Nevis on taking the lead within the energy sector with the installation of your wind farm at Maddens in Nevis, which is already, I am told, resulting in reduced rates for Nevisians; and as well on the progress that is being made to realise geothermal power generation – that can be a real game changer for your islands.
We in the Caribbean must also look strongly at the issue of feeding ourselves. The lands which Bradshaw claimed for the state must be put to work and become productive. Food and freight prices are rising worldwide, which means that there will be a continued cost impetus to modernise our food production systems.
Comrades, the opportunities for St. Kitts and Nevis and our Caribbean have to be embraced. We must do more to work and share together as a Caribbean people. The divisions of Leeward and Windward only now seem to matter in cricket, and certainly not in terms of where the wind blows. The Caribbean spirit blows throughout all our islands, all our people, from Cayon to St James to Vieux Fort. Comrades, we must build the bridges of trust and compassion for each other so that we can realise a truly unified Caribbean.
If ever we were to construct physical bridges to link our islands, the first would have to be between St. Kitts and Nevis. It is just two miles across the Narrows between your two islands, the shortest distance among all the islands of the Caribbean. Let the dream of unification start with St. Kitts and Nevis. Let the dream we have for our region find leadership in these islands. Let the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party continue to represent that strength of leadership and democracy.
It is fitting that we can celebrate eighty years in these times. It is a testament to the unwavering courage of your people in the face of adversity; their ability to unite and overcome the challenges of those days gone, as we must do with our challenges in these days to come. This Labour Party, this Saint Kitts & Nevis Labour Party has given to your country sterling leaders, sure representation, stability and growth for decades past. I wish that it may continue to do the same, to honour the people of St. Kitts-Nevis and the people of the region, in the years to come.
Thank you and may you find strength and direction through Almighty God, and walk straight in His path. Eighty more for SKNLP! Eighty more!