Nevis Premier addresses Nevisians in the Diaspora

Premier of Nevis Hon. Mark Brantley (file photo)
Premier of Nevis Hon. Mark Brantley (file photo)

NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (January 16, 2018) — The following an address by Premier of Nevis Hon. Mark Brantley, keynote speaker at the 19th annual Heart & Hands for Nevis Inc. luncheon. The fundraising event was held at the LaGuardia Airport Marriott in Elmhurst in New York on January 14, 2018.

My dear brother and sisters,

I greet you from the warmth of our beloved Nation of St. Kitts and Nevis and more specifically from our island of Nevis.

Bloomberg has recently said that St. Kitts is the only must see island in the Caribbean for 2018. CNN has said that Nevis is the only must see Caribbean island for 2018 and number five in the entire world.

Whether you prefer Bloomberg or CNN, I think we can all say that our Nation of St. Kitts and Nevis is punching well above its weight. We are truly blessed to call St. Kitts and Nevis home.

I start by thanking you for inviting me to address you at your prestigious annual event. I believe I last addressed this gathering some nine years ago when you celebrated your 10th annual gala.

I have sought to attend from time to time to show my unwavering commitment to Hearts and Hands, its leadership, its members and our people who live in the Diaspora. Today I am told that persons have come from far and wide to co-mix and co-mingle one with another. This is the demonstration of unity to which I intend to speak.

Hearts and Hands has done and continues to do yeoman service for the people of Nevis living in the New York and surrounding areas and for Nevisians at home. It is a model organization whose longevity has been assured by the commitment of its executive and members to the cause of Nevis.

In speaking to the very embodiment of commitment, I pause to recognize the memory of Pearline Liburd, one of today’s honourees, who served this organization and Nevis well. She was in her lifetime a tower of strength to many and inspired me greatly whenever we had occasion to speak. As we honour her today posthumously, let us remember her rich legacy of service to us all.

Our other two honourees are equally committed servants of Nevis. The Hon. Uhral Swanston who was at one point a leading political voice in Nevis and a stalwart of the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP). Mr Swanston has served the people of Gingerland and the people of Nevis in Nevis, in St. Kitts Nevis and beyond our shores. I applaud him and his lifetime of dedicated service to our people.

Lastly, Her Honour Marjorie Morton, our Acting Deputy Governor General. She has led an exemplary life of service to her family her God and her country. I am delighted that she has served with such distinction, that today, she has entered the history books as the very first woman to hold the position of Deputy Governor General of Nevis.

All three honourees have in common their years of service to the Nevisian people. I thank them. I applaud them. I applaud Hearts and Hands for seeing it right and just to honour them in this way.

As you all know Nevis held an election on December 18, 2017. Many of you here assembled today travelled home to exercise your franchise. I thank those who voted for the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) and thank the rest in advance for their support of the CCM on the next occasion.

Whoever you voted for, however, I thank you for caring enough to take the time from your jobs and your families to come home and exercise your franchise. That act is indicative of your ongoing commitment to our beloved Nevis.

In that election which was peaceful, free and fair and free from fear, the people of Nevis voted overwhelmingly for the Concerned Citizens Movement and decided in their collective wisdom to reward the CCM with four of the five seats on offer. Not since 2001 have we seen such a phenomenon.

Of the 6,617 people who voted, 3753 voted for the CCM. This represents some 56.7 percent of the ballots validly cast. On the other side, some 2864 persons voted for the NRP. This represents some 43.3 percent of the ballots validly cast. There are still thousands represented on the electoral rolls who for one reason or another did not vote.

Nevis at last tally boasts a population of roughly 13,500 people. If for illustrative purposes only, we can extrapolate the election results outwards to the general population it means that 56.7 percent of the people in Nevis support CCM while 43.3 percent support the NRP.

Put differently, whilst the CCM has won the election, thousands of our fellow Nevisians (indeed nearly half) expressed a preference for the NRP and its leadership. I say that to pose this question: In an island already beset with the challenges of small size and small population can we afford to govern for only half the people?

The elections are now over. CCM has won the war of ideas on this occasion. Having won the war, we now have the much harder challenge of winning the peace. To win the peace it cannot and must not be business as usual. We cannot continue the old paradigm of winner takes all because the ultimate loser in that paradigm is the island of Nevis.

I, posit today that Nevis must be for ALL Nevisians and our people must feel able regardless of their race or place of birth or socio-economic standing or political preference to live and work and contribute to our national development. The little boy from Jessups must feel just as assured of his place in Nevis as the little girl from Rawlins.

I, propose as the new Premier of Nevis to govern for all; to say to the people of Nevis that Nevis belongs to all of us; to say to the NRP diehard and the CCM diehard alike that both should be and will be given a fair chance in their own country and that neither should be denied the full fruits of his or her citizenship.

My friends, I propose that we are ultimately not a blue Nevis nor a green Nevis but a single beautiful Nevis.

We are ‘One Nevis’ and we must so conduct ourselves that our people work together in unity to achieve that oneness of purpose. Imagine for a moment that only half of our already small population decided to pay their taxes or invest their money or exhibit patriotism to their country? Imagine that only half decided to work and contribute their ideas and their energy to our island’s development? Can you see the poor outcomes from such a scenario?

Conversely, can you imagine with me a Nevis where the full talents and energies of our people at home and abroad are harnessed and unleashed? Can you imagine Nevisians at home and abroad not only wanting to but being actively encouraged to participate in the development of our island and our country? Can you imagine the beautiful symphony of that orchestra of unity?

Our island will only and can only progress to its fullest potential if all of our people are engaged in the national developmental agenda and when I say all of our people, I mean our people at home and our people abroad. I mean native Nevisians and those who have migrated to Nevis and now call our island their home. To use language that we can all understand, every ‘tut mum sam and baggai’ has a place and must find a place at the table of national development.

But to achieve this, I believe that as Premier, I must set the right tone for the Government and for our island. I and my Cabinet colleagues must ensure that the government functions in a fair and transparent manner. We must insist that institutional checks on governmental abuse such as Integrity in Public Life legislation and Freedom of Information legislation become a part of our tapestry of governance.

Our government must serve the people not its members. We must exercise fiscal prudence and award government contracts on merit and demonstrated ability. We must respect and abide by our Constitution which we are sworn to uphold and the rule of law. We must insist that our public servants give the best possible service to the Nevisian public who pays their salaries.

We must demand that the culture of respect and discipline which has steadily eroded over the years be reintroduced and reinforced. We must listen and listen some more. We must hear all voices even those which sound discordant notes.

As in any robust democracy, we must defend our brother’s right to say at the top of his voice that which we abhor even as we defend our own right to express our views which our brother abhors.

We must pray and continually ask for Gods guidance and wisdom in our decision making. We must reshape our Nevis and ensure that we work together to propel our island forward.

My vision for Nevis is a place where we care for our sick and infirm; a place where we honour our seniors; a place where persons with disabilities have their seat at the table; a place where every boy and every girl has access to quality healthcare and education; a place where crime is brought under control and criminals find no comfort; a place where we respect and protect our environment; a place where we respect each other; a place where we once again become our brother’s keeper and our sister’s helper; a place where we grow our economy and create sustainable jobs; a place where every Nevisian and every person who calls Nevis home can aspire to be the best that he or she can be. In short, we want Nevis to be the absolute best place in the Caribbean to live and work.

In achieving this new paradigm for Nevis, I am asking for your help. You live in large countries such as these great United States of America. You have acquired education, vast skills and in the case of many of you great wealth. You have been exposed to the very best in technology and innovation. You have access to quality healthcare and quality education. Your wealth of experience, talent, energy and money must now be put to use in assisting the development of Nevis.

Each and every one of you here gathered is an ambassador for your country. Each and every one of you can persuade friends and colleagues at work and neighbours at home to become visitors and even investors in Nevis. Each of you has a sphere of influence which you should leverage for the benefit of our Nevis.

Many of you own a home here in the US. Instead of buying another home here, how about building or buying one back home in Nevis? Many of you have children and grandchildren who have been born here in the Diaspora and never visited Nevis. Why not insist that they come to know their ancestral land? Many of you are investors here. How about investing in Nevis and creating some jobs there.

For example, right now Nevis is crying out for a home for the aged. Our Flamboyant Home cannot sustain the demand and is quickly becoming overcrowded with a long waiting list. My government feels that this is an area ripe for entrepreneurship and investment as our population ages.

Many of you have old family lands and properties abandoned all across Nevis. Why not families get together and develop those lands for the benefit of us all? Nevis needs cutting edge health diagnostic tools such as CT scan and MRI and modern laboratory facilities. These are areas ripe for investment. We, those at home and those abroad, must join our hearts and our hands and work together to build our island and our wider nation.

My friends, in essence I am asking for a real partnership. A real unity of purpose and of action. The government cannot do it alone. Nevis needs your help. I ask that you lend your ideas and your energy and your resources to help us create the Nevis we all desire.

Many see investment and investors as coming from a foreign person usually Caucasian with a straw hat and a briefcase. For far too long that perception of who an investor is has ensured that such persons come to our region sometimes with nothing but an idea and are allowed through fiscal concessions and active encouragement to become investors.

Many are freely given assistance which governments are not prepared to give to their own citizens. Today, I say clearly to you here gathered that it is high time that Nevisians took charge of the commanding heights of the Nevisian economy. It is a matter of great regret that since Nichols and Nisbett no hotel in Nevis is owned by Nevisians. This has to change.

My government commits itself to economic advancement of our island. Geothermal energy, after some delays, now appears to be back on track with drilling continuing apace in Hamilton.

The promise of geothermal, when realized, will transform the economic landscape of Nevis. Cleaner cheaper energy which allows us to wean ourselves completely off fossil fuels for the generation of electricity, will allow Nevis to position herself as the greenest place on Planet Earth. The reputational and touristic impact would be phenomenal. We also anticipate light industries developing using cheaper energy and the bi products of geothermal.

We will continue our thrust in tourism and even now, Nevis is seeing a tourism boom both in stayover and cruise passengers the likes of which we have never experienced.

We will see the expansion of Charlestown with the development of the abandoned Rest Haven property to create a boardwalk, shops, retail space, restaurants, offices and a marina.

We shall see the establishment of a Hospitality Institute which will attract students locally, regionally and internationally. This institute will provide critical training for workers in our hospitality sector.

We shall see the completion of the final phase of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) certified Mondo athletic track and a Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) certified football pitch which will allow us to make a giant leap forward, not only in the development of local sporting talent but also in attracting regional and international meets and visiting teams to Nevis and so enhance our sports tourism product.

The future my brother and sisters is exceedingly bright. We have a new government with the vim, vigour and vitality to get the job done. We are old and experienced enough to know but yet young enough to do. Nevis has given us an awesome responsibility and I commit to you today that we shall not disappoint.

I therefore end where I started. We are One Nevis. We are One People and we must work together to ensure that we move in One Direction towards One Goal which is a better Nevis for us all.

If we can achieve this paradigm shift in approach, then I believe that our beautiful island will at last be able to live out its motto of that land of beauty where peace abounds. We say Nevis Nice. Let us work together to ensure that we keep that niceness in Nevis.

Thank you and may God continue to richly bless you. May He from whom all mercies flow be merciful to us and to Nevis now and forever more.

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