On the occasion of Saint Lucia’s 42nd anniversary of independence, Philip J. Pierre, leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) in his address to the nation on February 22, 2021, accentuated the following:
- The challenge of governance
- Foreign policy
- Healthcare challenge
- The economic challenge
- The education challenge
In part one, Caribbean News Global (CNG), profiles the challenge of governance; foreign policy; and the healthcare challenge.
By Philip J. Pierre
This 42nd anniversary of our country’s independence finds us facing our greatest challenges since we became an independent nation on February 22, 1979. For the majority of us, these are, indeed, the greatest challenges of our lifetime, including the battle against the global public health emergency, COVID-19. We should, however, not be daunted by these challenges.
Our forefathers survived the Atlantic crossing in slave ships from Africa and overcame the subjugation of slavery, the plantation system and colonialism. Thanks to their sense of purpose and determination, today we have secured independence for the people of Saint Lucia. However, this independence will remain fragile if we do not repair and strengthen some of the structures that are necessary for a strong, resilient nation.
In deference to our forefathers, we must follow their example of perseverance and sense of purpose in the face of adversity and continue the work of building a truly independent nation for the benefit of all our people.
The challenge of governance
I call on all Saint Lucians to reflect on our current system of governance and how we can improve on it. Far too many structures and conventions that are required to support the key institutions of our democracy have been compromised, abused and in some cases are just absent, even when our constitution and laws call for their presence.
We must correct these deficiencies if we are to build an independent country where the people can trust their leaders and have an expectation that they, the people, will be treated fairly and justly.
Our members of parliament must do more to earn the respect and trust of the people, by being more accountable, transparent and caring. It is only then that mutual trust and respect can be developed between the representatives and the people.
In the same spirit of fostering respect and trust, elected opposition members of parliament should not be sidelined and denied access to state resources in meeting their responsibility to the people who elected them.
We cannot build a truly independent nation by trampling on the democratic rights of the people who expect fair and proper representation.
We can only give greater meaning to our independence by practicing open, transparent government, restoring honesty and trust in the governance of our country, and creating an independent public service with professional, competent and fairly remunerated, public servants, police officers and teachers.
It is, in part, for those reasons that as the leader of a new government, I will strengthen the Integrity Commission to allow for meaningful action, which will deter public officials and politicians from engaging in acts of corruption.
A truly independent nation must allow for inclusiveness, otherwise, we will be left with a fragmented and weak nation unable to make its people proud of any notable achievement, which can command the attention of the rest of the world.
We have produced world-class quality leaders in several fields of endeavour. This should remain a source of hope and inspiration that we can continue the tradition and improve the quality of life for our people.
Let us, in all of this, be more mindful of the very often forgotten, financial burdens we place on future generations by incurring eye-popping, irresponsible and reckless public debt.
We must not deny future generations their rights to fairly enjoy the rewards of their labour.
On this 42nd independence anniversary, I call and welcome the voices of the Saint Lucia National Trust, the Saint Lucia Bar Association, the Trade Unions and other institutions to play their part without fear or favour in nation-building. We need everyone to make their rightful contribution to building a better nation.
For our independence to be meaningful, we must have a robust judicial system where access to justice is time-sensitive and the poor and vulnerable have the confidence that they will be treated justly and fairly.
Our justice system must also reflect an understanding of the culture of our people, and in this regard, serious consideration should be given to adopting the Caribbean Court of Justice as our final appellate Court and a replacement for the English based Privy Council.
In improving our democratic institutions, a labour government under my leadership will undertake constitutional reform to reflect the hopes, ideas and aspirations of our people in a rapidly changing environment which is calling for greater accountability and better use of scarce resources.
We can strengthen our independence by pursuing a foreign policy that is firmly grounded in our national interest that keeps regional integration as a core principle and supports our regional organisations like the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean (OECS) and the Caribbean Community.
Our foreign policy should not fail to remember our traditional benefactors like the United Kingdom, European Union, especially the French, the United States of America, Canada, Republic of China (Taiwan), Cuba and Venezuela.
We should also remain committed to developing greater south-south cooperation to support the development of our people and country.
Health care challenge
The COVID-19 pandemic has not spared our island the economic, health and social havoc it has been inflicting on the world since 2020. We have lost and continue to lose precious lives; livelihoods have been devastated and many of our people are still suffering, frustrated and unsure of how long this mental and physical pain will end.
In this time of crisis, we must each take responsibility for our well-being. We must practice all the protocols that we have been told we must follow if we are to stay safe. However, I call upon the government in formulating COVID-19 policies that they should follow the science and best practices, to combat this disease and to bring it under control.
We must ensure that the people that have been hardest hit by COVID-19 receive the economic and social relief and support that has been made available from international financial institutions through loans and grants.
The taxi-drivers and minibuses, fisherfolk, vendors, small business owners, and farmers still wait for much needed financial assistance. We must address their needs. They have families too, which depend on them.
In this COVID-19 battle, we should put people before profits, lives before livelihoods and health before wealth.
The challenge of COVID-19 has forcefully reminded us of the need for a first-class health care system that is accessible and affordable to all. This is why Universal Health Care will be a topmost priority for an SLP government.
Philip J. Pierre, leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) national address is available here.
To be continued … Part 2