NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (December 27, 2017) — The following is a speech delivered by Hon. Mark Brantley, Premier of Nevis at the Inauguration of the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) at the Elquemedo T. Willett Park on December 24, 2017.
Today is the day that the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
We are gathered here together at this place and at this time in our history, for yet another chapter in the socio-political life and times of our Nevis. We gather here at the historic Elquemedo T. Willett Park for an historic occasion.
We have been afforded the privilege to so gather because you the people in free and fair elections conducted on December 18, 2017 voted overwhelmingly for the candidates of the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) Party which I am privileged to lead.
There are many to thank for the electoral triumph of the CCM but let us first thank God, whose grace and mercy sustains us even though we are unworthy. It is in Him and through Him that we must trust, if we are to succeed and prosper. God raises up rulers for His purpose not ours and it is for us to lean on Him and not on our own understanding as we move forward.
I thank the candidates of this great party. The Hon. Alexis Jeffers our new Deputy Premier. The Hon. Spencer Brand. The Hon. Eric Evelyn. I also thank Mr. Keith Scarborough, MBE, who fought valiantly but on this occasion did not succeed.
I am grateful to the Hon. Hazel Brandy Williams and the Hon. Uthant Troy Liburd, for accepting my invitation to continue serving the people of Nevis in Cabinet and for taking on the awesome responsibilities of Health and Education respectively.
I thank the donors to our campaign. A few donated money while many others donated their ideas time and energy. I thank the campaign organizers and the workers, particularly Timothy Caines, for his organizational skills and Mervin Hanley and THG for their unrelenting Public Relations efforts.
I thank the leaders and members of the party executive and the constituency campaign teams at home and abroad. I thank the army of bloggers who dominated social media spreading the good news of the CCM Party and helping us to keep the flames of hope alive.
Lastly and importantly, I thank you the people of Nevis and those non-nationals who call Nevis home. I thank you for responding positively to our campaign message of hope and for your overwhelming love and support.
Nevis has every reason to be proud that we can have free and fair elections to determine our governments. It is not always so in other places and I am proud today of our strong and abiding tradition of democracy.
My beloved brothers and sisters, this ceremony today is testimony to a path laid out by God not by man. I was born into and out of poverty in a place called a Scarborough, in the countryside village of Hanleys Road. I grew up in Brown Hill where I spent my most important years. I was moulded by loving parents Irving Brantley and Cynthia Williams both now of blessed memory.
My parents had no formal education but insisted that I and my sisters pursue education as a proven route out of poverty. I was helped and nurtured by many. I mention my mentor the Right Excellent Sir Simeon Daniel of blessed memory, who was as a father to me and at whose feet I spent much time. His was a rare combination of towering intellectual capacity, determination, commitment, grace and humility. The elements so finely mixed in him that we can truly say he was a man among men.
I stand before you today, as living testimony of how a village can and should raise a child. I stand before you as someone who has come this far by faith, the abiding grace of God and by the help of the multitude.
My path should inspire every little boy and girl in Nevis, that they can become anything they set their hearts on; that they can aspire to achieve any profession and any high office; that in this our beloved island, no position is beyond them.
My path, I hope, from the dusty roads of Hanleys Road oft walked with bare feet to the hallowed halls of the Premier’s office, should say to our youth and to the world that we are never limited by the circumstances of our birth. We are never limited by our colour nor by our religion nor by our poverty nor by our station in life. No, I say to you today that our only limitation is the extent of our ambitions and our willingness to work hard to achieve our goals.
I pray that standing in this place today at this important crossroad in Nevisian history, that every young boy or girl from the very heights of Rawlins to the lowlands of Bath, from Hog Valley to Crosses Alley, from Newcastle to Zion will be inspired to dare to dream and to work hard to succeed.
The story of this entire Cabinet is the same. One of poverty, struggle, hard work, determination and ultimate triumph. It is a quintessential Nevisian story which should inspire us all.
My beloved people, today we would not have been able to be in this place, were it not for the hard work and sacrifice of the Hon. Vance Amory. It is he and others who had the vision 30 years ago to form the CCM Party, to provide servant leadership for the people of Nevis.
It is he who recruited me to become a member of the CCM. It is he who recruited the other members of this team that now stands before you as your new government. It is he who decided to step aside at the very height of his power and popularity, to allow new leadership to emerge and to allow the Party the chance for renewal.
I thank the Hon. Vance Amory for his long years of dedicated service and commitment to the people of Nevis. He has exemplified that true riches lie not in money in the bank or properties acquired but in ones service to one’s fellow man.
We must never forget that without Moses there would be no Joshua. Without Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dream, there would have been no President Barack Obama. Similarly, without Vance Amory, I could not stand before you today as Leader of CCM and the 4th Premier of Nevis.
I ask you gathered here today, to rise with me and applaud the Hon. Vance Amory for his long years of dedicated service to our beloved island and country and so, now what can you expect from me to whom you have given so much? What will your 4th Premier bring to better your lives and advance our island?
I start by reminding us all that the campaign is now over. Campaigning is only for a short season. Governance now must take centre stage. Having fought hard to win the election, we must now settle down to the really hard work of building Nevis.
I call on our island to forget and forgive past hurts, insults and disappointments. The NRP has lost this election but they are no less Nevisians whose energy and ideas we must harness to move Nevis forward.
As your Premier, it is for me to set the tone for our island going forward. In so doing, I extend the hand of friendship to the Honourable Joseph Parry and the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) and welcome them to join hands with our team to move Nevis forward.
The CCM is a great party with a stellar record of achievements for the people of Nevis but we would be foolish to believe that we have a monopoly on ideas. Let us not forget that whilst we won the election, thousands of our fellow voters voted for the NRP. We must reach out to those thousands and welcome them to the tent of governance now for Nevis.
In this regard, I remind you that we do not have a blue island and a green island. We have only one beloved Nevis to which each and every one of us must dedicate our efforts individually and collectively if we are to succeed.
We must in the next five years advance our economy. We must ensure that our youths and our people generally are empowered, so that they can seize the commanding heights in their own country. We must usher into being a kinder gentler Nevis, where we once again become our brothers’ keeper and our sisters’ helper.
In this the season of Christmas, let us pledge ourselves not to worry about receiving but to concern ourselves with giving. Under your new Government, let it be Christmas all year round and let that spirit of joy and peace be with us today, tomorrow and forever more.
We must ensure that we take care of our sick, our infirm and our persons living with disabilities. Our elderly must continue to enjoy pride of place in our island, for we stand on the rock that they have built.
We must confront crime and criminality in high and low places. We must ensure that no one is above the law and that the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, are at all times respected.
We must insist that our government functions in a more transparent manner and that the necessary checks and balances are in place, to ensure that this government works for you not for its members.
To this end, we shall in short order operationalize Integrity in Public Life legislation and pass Freedom of Information legislation, to ensure that those whom we have elected to serve us remember and remain true to their purpose and their oaths.
We must listen and provide the necessary forums, where our people can speak to us often. I know there is great wisdom in the hearts and minds of the Nevisian people and I intend to take guidance from you at every turn.
The Nevis Island Assembly, must function as it is intended to and we shall have meetings there at least once every two months, as we roll out our legislative agenda.
We look forward to a lasting and close relationship with the church. There is no lasting development without Christ and our churches must be asked to keep us in constant prayer and to place our island and her leadership before God without ceasing.
We promise a new Nevis where our families, our communities, our churches and our government can all sing the same hymn from the same pew and work collectively to build a better Nevis for all.
We must continue on our path of unity with St. Kitts. Our country, for the first time in its history, has a real chance to function as a true nation, where the talents of all are recognized and pressed into service to build a better St. Kitts and Nevis.
The little boy from Cox, must be treated no differently than the little boy from Cayon. The little girl from Mollyneaux and the little girl from Matchmans Road, must not have their ambitions and aspirations stifled by virtue of the accidental place of their birth.
We must continue to see this as OUR country, comprised of two islands but nevertheless belonging to all of us. None of our citizenry must be denied the full fruits of their citizenship. In this regard, I commend our beloved Prime Minister and commit to continuing the important work which we have started to build a better and more cohesive Nation for all.
Nevis must continue the bold thrust to have historic Charlestown inscribed as a World Heritage City by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). We are making steady progress in this regard and I thank His Excellency Ambassador Dr. Everson Hull, who has led this charge with passion and aplomb.
This coveted inscription, will catapult Nevis to the next level as a tourist destination unleashing the full potential of our people and their creative spirit and allowing us to showcase our rich history to the world. In this effort Nevisians we need and I ask for your commitment and support.
We must continue to develop education including vocational training for the development of our people. An educated population is a prerequisite for lasting socio-economic development.
Our healthcare sector, requires serious work as we expand our Alexandra Hospital, digitize our health records and move to universal health insurance in 2018.
Exciting times lie ahead and I charge the two junior ministers to bring their vast talents and energy to bear, so that the Nevisian people can be the beneficiaries.
My friends, we intend to build a Nevis for all. Nevisians and non-nationals who call Nevis home must feel welcomed and appreciated in this our island. All of us and I repeat ALL of us, must be given a fair chance to obtain a fair share of all that Nevis has to offer.
Our people must not be attacked or vilified for their political views and opinions. We live in a free democratic society and must recognize that in a robust democracy, we must defend our neighbour’s right to shout at the top of his voice that which we abhor even as we defend our right to shout at the top of our voice that in which we believe.
However, let me be clear. Freedom of speech has never been free. With great freedom comes great responsibility. I have witnessed some naked vitriol in the public square from some quarters, including senior civil servants, directed against government and opposition alike. I ask that this stop and stop immediately.
As part of the kinder gentler Nevis we wish to see, we must be able to discuss ideas and even differ without the level of rancour which some engage in. Let us engage with each other and differ with each other if we must but let us do so respectfully.
I commit today to you, that the Nevis we will build will be a Nevis for all. It will be a Nevis which will become a shining beacon on the hill for economic prosperity, good governance and transparency. It will become the best place in all of the Caribbean to live and work.
I ask that as we build this Nevis that we hold hands together and continue to invoke God’s blessings, protection and guidance upon us. I ask you to pray for me and for your Cabinet. I ask you not to pray for riches or for our longevity in office. Rather, I ask you to pray that God may grant us wisdom. It is through wisdom that we will manage and through wisdom, we will make the right decisions to move Nevis forward.
As your Premier, I ask for your prayers. I ask for your wise counsel. I ask for your help. I ask for your continued love and support but most of all, I ask that you allow your patriotism and your undying love for Nevis inform your every word and deed.
For many of us, Nevis is all we have. Let us therefore protect our island, its flora, its fauna, its environment. Let us pledge together to ensure that the Nevis we bequeath to our children will be a better Nevis than that which was bequeathed to us.
May God bless you Nevis and may He continue to guide and guard us all.
I wish you a blessed Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.