Fellow Vincentians, today we celebrate the forty-first anniversary of our nation’s independence. We do this at a time when the world seems to be experiencing one crisis after another: a pandemic, economic difficulties, natural disasters, social unrest, burgeoning racial tensions and widespread human suffering.

As we celebrate this milestone in our nation’s history, we must be thankful that St. Vincent and the Grenadines remains a relatively stable and peaceful nation. This has been achieved through our combined efforts, but particularly through the efforts of our leaders. We acknowledge, with appreciation, the many contributions made by Vincentians from all walks of life to the nation’s development. 

It is the commitment and resilience of these patriots which allows us to achieve excellence at home and abroad, including making our mark on the world’s stage at international organisations such as the United Nations, and to persevere amidst adversity and hardships. It is also necessary to highlight the excellent performance of our students at the regional CSEC exit examinations, particularly at this time, considering the difficulties with which they were presented as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a small island developing state, our world view has been sharpened through globalisation. Policies and actions taken by the international community affect us almost immediately in some form or fashion, whether it be at the level of our economy, our health, our environment, our long-standing traditions and beliefs, or just our general well-being. The tragedy of it all is that we have very little or no control over these external pressures. In the final analysis, the responsibility becomes ours to deal with the effects of the pressure exerted on us from the “developed world.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected our lives. Nothing has had a more devastating and life-changing effect on us. We must thank, first and foremost, the government and officials of the Ministry of Health for the swift and pragmatic response in addressing the threat of COVID-19. We must give recognition to the front line workers: the doctors, nurses, police officers, media workers and all other persons who have provided invaluable service, resources and information in combating the deadly virus. This does not mean that we are so much in control, that we become complacent and lower our guards. The coronavirus is still an existential threat and shows no sign of abating.

Mention must be made of the various programmes implemented by the government and non-governmental organisations to lessen the impact of widespread loss of employment and loss of livelihoods on many of our citizens brought about by COVID-19. Many vulnerable sections of our population were helped and are still being helped in an effort to enable them to ride out the crisis. In these extraordinary times, our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones, and where possible let us extend a helping hand to those less fortunate citizens who may be in need of help.

As if COVID-19 is not enough, we are now confronted with the threat of dengue, a mosquito borne disease.  I urge all citizens to heed the advice of the health officials and do all within their power to limit the possibility of mosquitoes breeding around their properties. Let us all show that we are  responsible citizens who are not just interested in our own welfare but that we are looking out for the welfare of our neighbours as well.

The entire world is experiencing a period of uncertainty, and many consider this to be an ongoing state of affairs which will require us to accept it as the “new normal.” Who knows what will be the case? What we are certain of, however, is that we will have to make some changes to the way we go about our lives. It is yet too early to know exactly how drastic those changes will be. We have to be prepared to start rethinking our modus operandi and find new ways of coping with the new challenges. Each of us has to make a personal commitment to be part of a united people to face the future. We must grasp every opportunity presented, be responsive to every stimulus provided and be creative in order to find our niche in the global scheme of things.

Fellow Vincentians, we will soon be going to the polls to exercise our democratic right to elect a government.

Let us go about this exercise with the utmost respect for each other. Let us show that we are a mature democracy that can match up to any the world over, and will, after elections day, be able to hold our heads high and be proud of the dignified manner in which we had conducted ourselves.

It is of utmost importance that all political parties abide by the Code of Conduct that they have signed on to, and ensure that their supporters align themselves with the undertaking they have given to conduct themselves appropriately during this election season.

In closing, I wish to remind you that coping will involve putting aside our petty differences and working harmoniously in the continued development of our beautiful nation. I highlight the chorus of our National Anthem which says:

What e’er the future brings,

Our faith will see us through.

May peace reign from shore to shore,

And God bless and keep us true.

My family and I wish the nation a Happy Independence Day. May God bless you all and bless St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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