My fellow citizens and residents of our beloved St. Kitts and Nevis, it is with an immense sense of joy and hope that I greet you on this New Year’s Day, giving God thanks for the gift of life, the gift of a new year. As I reflect on the year 2018, I can’t help but notice that many who started the journey with us, even some who made it into December, are now not with us. They have gone to the great beyond. Thank God for his blessed gift of life and external hope.
Today, we celebrate the ushering in of another New Year, which for many of us is always a hopeful time – a time that provides an opportunity for new beginnings and to set new goals and resolutions for self-advancement. While 2018 was a difficult one for many, progress and success can be achieved in the new year if we all summon our individual and collective courage and determination, and work together to build a nation about which we can all be proud. It is this spirit of togetherness that has kept hope alive for generations, during periods of great difficulty, and it is this spirit of togetherness that will keep our hope alive in 2019 and for generations to come.
I am deeply thankful to Almighty God for allowing us to see the completion of another year and for being an ever-present help in these troubled times. As we prepare for what lies ahead, let us step into the unknown, not with fear and trepidation, but with optimism and anticipation that whatever the New Year brings, God will remain our anchor, our constant refuge and our strength.
The Year 2018 has not been an easy one for our people. In a climate where crime and criminality have reached new and dangerous levels; and together with an epidemic of non-communicable diseases are taking the lives of young and old alike, and in a flagging economy that has led to increased levels of underemployment and unemployment, there are many who are hurting, and hurting badly. There are many of us who have lost loved ones as a result of crime and illness. All across our Federation, there is a palpable sense that moral decay is taking root and, that as a nation, we are veering off course.
The sense of social and economic decline you see is concomitant with a galloping dictatorship that has declared war on the democratic and good governance standards upon which our great country was founded. The rule of faction has replaced the rule of law in our country to the detriment of the social and economic interests of ordinary people. As more and more power is being concentrated in the hands of one family, it has created an enabling environment for even more corruption and nepotism to thrive, with little or no accountability in the public interest.
The steady erosion of our democracy and good governance, and the retreat to totalitarianism has left a dark and threatening cloud, looming over our country, which threatens its prospects for social and economic development moving forward. In a country where the accounts of important public corporations are not being laid in the Parliament as required by law; where the Public Accounts Committee has been rendered toothless; where unbridled victimization has undermined the quality and delivery of public services and has infringed the rights and liberties of law-abiding citizens; where the IMF has been denied the consent of the Government to publish its report; where the resources generated by the Citizenship by Investment Programme are being channeled into Funds that are without accountability or transparency and have no basis in law; where taxpayers’ money is being diverted to spurious projects and activities; where the underselling, bribery and forgery in the citizenship by investment programme known to the government are being ignored; and where the National Budget lacks any serious strategy to promote growth and development; it is no small wonder then that poll after poll reveals that majority of citizens feel that the country is going in the wrong direction.
The New Year brings with it an opportunity to take our Federation into a focused direction under new leadership. I am satisfied that our people have had the chance to compare and contrast, and I am persuaded that our people, whenever they are given the opportunity in the impending General Elections, will move definitively and overwhelmingly to return our country to the path of good governance, growth and prosperity.
Over the past three and a half years, the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party has undergone a period of deep reflection that has led to the emergence of a rebranded and reformed Party with Next Gen SKN ideas. We are especially proud that in recent weeks our Party has signed a Code of Ethical Conduct that represents a higher order to which all our candidates have committed.
The St. Kitts – Nevis Labour Party over the course of the past year has seen a tremendous resurgence in public support for our vision that has always put people first. We are heartened by the renewed vibrancy among the rank and file membership of our Party, and the enthusiasm and dedication demonstrated by our vast army of volunteers, especially our young people. I take the opportunity to thank all of you, our citizens, for the support and new ideas shared with the dynamic team of candidates, for your continued dedication and commitment, and I look forward to another year of working with you at the community and national levels in solidarity and service to the people of our Federation.
To our nationals living abroad in various capitals around the world, I would like to thank you for remaining attuned and engaged on the issues and challenges here at home. The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party esteems and values our nationals in the Diaspora as essential partners in our plans for building a Next Gen SKN. Not only do we value the treasure and talent that you bring to bear in turning the aspirations of our people into reality, we also value the role that you play as engaged citizens in choosing the leadership that will take our country forward. As Leader of the Opposition, and as Leader of the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, I pledge to do my very best to thwart any attempt by the government to disenfranchise our overseas nationals and to take away your right as citizens, to participate in the electoral process at home.
Despite the many challenges that are presently being faced by our Federation, I urge us all not to allow negativity and cynicism to dominate our collective consciousness. There are countless stories from this past year that remind us what is best about St. Kitts and Nevis. I want to commend our young people especially our young professionals, public servants, businessmen and women, our entertainers, artisans, skilled workers and sports men and women who are putting their energy and ideas towards positive things, and enthusiastically engaging in the social, economic and civic life of our country. The future of our country lies in your hands and it is my firm belief that with a national youth policy that puts the empowerment of our youth back at the center of political engagement, at the center of national strategies and plans, our nation can be taken into a next generation and dimension of cooperation and action that would redound to the benefit of all communities.
These are serious times that call for serious, experienced and visionary leadership. In order to get our nation back on track it is vital that we all endeavor to get involved, get engaged and stand up together as we put our shoulders to wheel of progress in our beloved Federation. Each of us can make a difference and all of us ought to try. Let us all try to be the change we seek in the year ahead and to demand more of our leaders.
I wish you all a very blessed, prosperous, healthy and productive 2019! Happy New Year to all. God bless you. Thank you