NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS ( September 19, 2019) — The following is the full text of the Independence Day Address 2019, by Hon. Mark Brantley, Premier of Nevis.
My fellow citizens at home and abroad, residents and visitors to our shores,
I greet you at the glorious dawn of yet another celebration of our Nation’s Independence.
It is on this day 36 years ago that St. Kitts and Nevis extricated itself from the grip of Mother England, and joined the other nations of the world as an independent country.
Despite our small size, geographically, and our small population, I believe it is true to say that we have stood tall on the regional and global stage. We have been a responsive and responsible country and we have made friends far larger and far more powerful than us, who recognize that in us they have a true and trusted international partner.
My message this Independence Day is a simple one. It is a message of hope.
The past year by any measure has been a difficult year for our beloved island of Nevis. The closure of the Four Seasons Resort for some four months to undergo massive renovations and improvements has caused hardship to nearly 400 workers and to the revenue prospects of the island. The recent and sudden closure of the Brown Hill Call Centre, affecting some 138 workers, has caused additional hardship to us and the employment situation on the island.
Various litigants have sued this government to prevent development and investment in our island. We have had incidents of crime and criminality including two tragic murders of young men this year.
We have faced an unprecedented drought which led to water shortages. We have had difficulties with electricity supply leading to discomfort for many of our people.
We have continued to have a toxicity to our politics which has thus far, sought to resist all efforts at fostering and developing our commitment to a kinder and gentler Nevis. We are, even as I speak, at the height of the hurricane season, and we continue to be vulnerable to the ravages of climate change.
To say that we have been tested by these events and circumstances is perhaps an understatement but faced with such adversity, this government has not crumbled. Our people have not crumbled. Our island has not crumbled and today I am proud.
Instead, we have confronted the adversity in a direct, honest and forthright manner, and today I am proud that workers are resuming their jobs at the Four Seasons which expects its first guests two weeks from now. I am proud that workers at the call centre have been paid compensation packages and can expect their severance payments in short order.
I am happy to report that your government handled both matters with the seriousness and the openness that such challenges warrant, and that even now discussions are ongoing with potential suitors for that facility in Brown Hill.
What has guided us and what has always guided us over this past 36 years as a nation is the elixir of hope. It is hope that has allowed us, as a small country in this Caribbean Sea, to deal with the twin hammer blows of the closure of Four Seasons and Brown Hill Communications.
It is hope that has allowed us to work closely with the Ministry of National Security to foster into existence an unprecedented period of peace in our island and country, and a remarkable downturn in crime.
It is hope that has informed our approach to appeal decisions adverse to our ability to develop our island and bring economic opportunity to our people. It is hope that has propelled us to embark upon continued infrastructural development for the advancement of our island.
We have continued the development of Brown Hill road which was left untouched for over 50 years. We have embarked on the development of Craddock Road to bring relief to the people there, after more than 40 years.
We have embarked on the largest expansion of the Alexandra Hospital in the island’s history.
We have expanded the water distribution and storage capacity of our island. We have sought to increase the supply of water by drilling one new well at New River, and treating water from the Hamilton well to make it potable.
We are even now rebuilding the Island Main Road from Cotton Ground to Cliff Dwellers. We have delivered a first class water taxi pier. We have delivered a modern Treasury Building soon to open its doors. We have undertaken considerable work on several of our schools. We have invested heavily in the New Castle Police Station, soon to be commissioned. We have completed a brand new command and control centre for CCTV on our island, but we have not just invested in our physical infrastructure. We have also invested in our people.
Our commitment to our people and to putting our people first has manifested itself in the government using the services of our local contractors, truckers and heavy equipment owners on every single project undertaken on our island. Even where as in the Island Main Road, a non-local contractor is utilized, the government has insisted that local equipment and labour be employed.
This simple policy has had profound implications for the growth of the business sector, and many young entrepreneurs have now emerged in Nevis as a direct result of putting our people first. We have invested in our students studying abroad, granting some measure of assistance to help them realize their dreams of achieving tertiary education.
We have incentivized small business development through our Small Business Development Unit. To this end I am happy to report that the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) has approved funding for our micro loan programme of $5 million, where we will offer loans of up to $100,000 to women of all ages and men under 35, to boost small and micro business ownership among women and our youth.
We have continually invested in technology and e-services to make government more responsive and user friendly. I am pleased that our citizens can now pay taxes online, water and electricity online and even renew their driver’s licenses online.
It is hope that has propelled us as a nation to continue dialogue with Canada to bring relief to our people seeking to travel there. That hope bore spectacular fruits, when just a month ago Canadian officials travelled to our country to collect biometrics from residents here hoping to travel to Canada. The savings to our people who did not have to travel to distant lands to secure a visa have been significant.
It is hope that has seen us as a people achieve the unprecedented milestone of having the number one passport in all of the Eastern Caribbean, number three in the entire Caribbean and number 26 in the entire world. Only hope and the indomitable will of a people fortified with hope could achieve such successes.
Let us then for our independence remain ever hopeful. It is that hope that will fortify our spirits and strengthen our sinews in times of difficulty. It is that hope that will permit us to confront and overcome all challenges that may come our way. It is that hope that will give us, as a people, the necessary confidence to face tomorrow.
That hope, my friends that audacious bold and courageous hope, has been and will continue to be our foundation as an island and a nation.
As we celebrate then our independence, let us remain ever hopeful for our future and that of our children. We well know that yesterday is past and tomorrow is not promised but that hope that led our forefathers to dream big dreams, remains our hope today so that you and I, your children and mine can imagine and consecrate our future together.
My fellow citizens, residents and friends, allow me to wish you a happy Independence 36. May you and your families continue to prosper, and may our beloved nation remain ever hopeful and ever grateful to Jehovah God for blessing so abundantly.
Thank you, and may God bless and keep you and our beloved island and Nation.