Living With COVID-19
We were confronted by many challenges in the past year. We have continued to endure the devastating effects of the COVID 19 pandemic. 106 persons have died here in SVG, and other nationals have died abroad in the USA, Canada, and UK. I believe all of us know someone who has died of COVID 19. My sympathy goes out to the families of those who died.
From the outset, I urged that this scourge, unprecedented in our lifetime, would require us to work together as a united front against it if we are to limit the damage and recover as quickly as possible. That remains the approach we must pursue, all of us, and we can here recommit ourselves to do so in the spirit of Chatoyer. We are not out of it yet. So, we must continue to protect ourselves and others around us.
We cannot let it divide us and cause more pain for some who are made to carry a heavier share of the burden than the rest of us. I also cannot stress enough that vaccines are our most powerful tool in the fight against the virus. They have saved Vincentian lives. Following ourbrotherhood of free nations and our values however, we believe that COVID 19 vaccination is an individual choice.
As we learn to live with COVID, we must recover from COVID’s other devastating impact – the costly loss of livelihood across our land.
We must rebuild the pillars of our economy, by supporting our tourism sector to recover and by backing our farmers and fisherfolk, among other things.
We must begin to invest in the infrastructure that will support growth long into the future. We must attract sustainable investments, that are aligned with our goals of creating jobs and growing our economy. How we recover will determine our trajectory for decades to come. It will determine the job opportunities for our nation, but especially for our young people, who we cannot afford to lose to other countries with greener pastures. Our brighter future depends on keeping them here contributing to our development; giving them real opportunities to be heroes in their own way
La Soufriere Eruption
We are also recovering from the eruption of La Soufriere. When the volcano erupted last April, overnight our lives—especially those of our brothers and sister from the communities in the North–were turnedupside down. Thousands fled their homes seeking refuge in safer zones. As a people, we showed our true, kind spirit and provided shelter, food, and comfort to those most severely affected. Our brothers and sisters in the region and our diaspora in the USA, Canada and UK also gave generous support that helped our people to cope with the physical and economic disruption in their lives. But the ordeal is not yet over.
The rebuilding of lives, economy and communities will continue for a long time to come. But rebuild we must. And the pace must accelerate so that that life for the affected persons can return to normal, and hopefully better than before. That is a commitment we must give the people of Sandy Bay and Owia, of Chateaubelair and Fitz Hughes
The purpose for designating national heroes is not only to recognize the outstanding contribution of the individuals so named; it is also done so that we can hold those persons up as outstanding examples for others to follow. They must serve as inspiration to our citizens.
As we were tested by the twin disasters of COVID and volcanic eruption, many people performed heroically. Throughout the pandemic, teachers, nurses, police officers and private sector workers continued to provide service and to do so safely and effectively. They deserve praiseand our gratitude. The need for their quiet heroism continues and we expect them to deliver as they have done. The same goes for those who were called to respond and did respond in a mighty way when the volcano erupted. They too are in our debt.Because not everyone who have made their mark on our nation gain due recognition for their efforts, I want to celebrate them today.
There are also many everyday heroes. Persons who perform random acts of kindness, expecting nothing in return. Those who reject cynicism and see value in community service and volunteerism. How much poorer life would be without them. So, we must encourage them and even if only on this day, say thanks and urge them on.For those who value public service and give their lives to it,whatever the cost. They who do so because they know it is noble to serve their people and that service is its own reward.
In that spirit, I must recall the service and the passing of one of our greatest nation-builders, former PM Sir James F. Mitchell. He always believed that as a nation, we could do great things. That we can punch above our weight. That we had untapped potential. He devoted his life to seeing this realized. May his example of service inspire us to give of our best during our time.These are all people who are helping to forge our nation in the true Vincy spirit. Today, I salute them all.
Defend Our Patrimony
In our pursuits, and as we push forward as a nation, we must never give up the invaluable birth right which God has given to us. Decisions on development should always balance benefits with the costs to our community. And must always involve the people in a meaningful way in that undertaking.
We are a small country. Unlike vast countries like the USA and Canada, every bit of land is precious as it must support not just us and our children, but their children also and generations well into the future. We must guard against so-called developers, their abettors and others who would sell out the future generations of our country by digging up their birthright and shipping it overseas for pennies.