Opening Statement of the Hon Prime Minister, Dr Timothy Harris, at the Press Conference at the Parliamentary Lounge, Government Headquarters, Thursday, September 14, 2017

My Fellow Citizens and Residents,
It is my privilege to report to the Nation, through this press conference, on two matters of national interest. I will first give you an update on our Independence celebrations and secondly an update regarding post-Hurricane Irma developments.
I am convinced that, on this forthcoming Independence Day, Tuesday, September 19th, 2017, we as one Nation – this great Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis – ought to sing our magnificent National Anthem a little more lustily, particularly that line: “With God in all our struggles, St. Kitts and Nevis be a Nation bound together with a common destiny.”
Tuesday’s successful National Service of Prayer and Thanksgiving to God – held concurrently at the Wesley Methodist Church and the Charlestown Methodist Church – served as a reminder of this intertwined destiny that is held together and preserved by the divine power of God’s protective care.

Hundreds of Kittitians and Nevisians attended church and gave thanks in praise and worship for St. Kitts and Nevis being spared from the extreme ravages of Hurricane Irma, a storm that had threatened to be for our Federation a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane.
34th Independence Calendar of Activities
We do have a lot to be thankful for, but in light of the considerable disruptions caused by Hurricane Irma followed in quick succession by the threat of Hurricane Jose, it became apparent that we ought to curtail some of the celebratory events previously publicized on our Independence 34th Anniversary Calendar.
I take this opportunity now to apprise you again of the state sponsored activities that remain.
This Saturday, September 16th, which is a public holiday, is the Annual National Heroes Day Ceremony at our historic National Heroes Park.

The National Heroes’ Day Observance will begin at 8:00am. We will honour all five of the Nation’s most illustrious sons of the soil for their remarkable legacy and lasting impact on national development.
On Sunday, September 17th, all are invited to attend the Independence State Service, which will take place at the Charlestown Methodist Church at 5:00pm. There is no transportation cost. The Caribe Queen will depart St. Kitts at 3:00pm and the Mark Twain will depart St. Kitts at 3:30pm. We urge everyone journeying to Nevis to be on time. Please note that ferries will return to St. Kitts after the State Service.

Monday, September 18th is a normal working day. Tuesday, September 19th is a public holiday, in commemoration of our 34th Anniversary of Independence.
The Independence Day Parade at Warner Park is scheduled to start at 8:00am and the Toast at Camp Springfield will follow at 10:00am. The Independence Cocktail Reception will be held under the distinguished patronage of His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House from 7:00pm.

On behalf of the Cabinet and His Excellency our Governor-General, I invite you to attend these commemorative events, as we celebrate our Nation’s 34th Anniversary of Independence with humility and gratitude for our blessings.
Post-Hurricane Irma Damage Assessment

Hurricane Irma visited our region as a dangerous category 5 hurricane on the 5th of September, 2017. It has left behind significant damages including near devastation of Barbuda and St Maarten, and dislocated Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the United States Virgin Islands (USVI). The estimate of damages to Latin America and the Caribbean attributed to Hurricane Irma is put at US $10 billion dollars. Thirty-seven lives are reported lost to date as a result of Hurricane Irma.
St Kitts and Nevis was spared a direct hit and consequential loss of lives. For this we are most thankful to God for his divine providence. While we fared better than most, we are not without our share of difficulties.

The preliminary damage assessment report for St. Kitts has been prepared by Mr. Cromwell Williams, Director of Public Works/Chairman of the Damage Assessment and Recovery Committee (DARC) of NEMA. The preliminary damage assessment report for Nevis has been prepared by Mr. Brian Dyer, who is the Disaster Manager at the Nevis Disaster Management Department in the Premier’s Ministry.
The estimate of damage to St Kitts and Nevis has been conservatively put at EC $53.2 million. The Nevis Island Administration (NIA) estimates the damage on that island at approximately EC $12 million. On the island of St. Kitts, our estimate is EC $41 million.
This estimate reflects damage mostly to the public sector. We are still awaiting the reports from the private sector.
The principal areas of damages:

Water Services 1,328,000.00
Electricity 3,583,300.00
Roads/Quarry 500,000.00
Residential Housing 5,880,000.00
Commercial Housing None reported
Other Government Buildings 250,000.00
Agriculture 10,497,000.00
Environmental damage (Coastal Erosion) 11,000,000.00
Environmental damage (Forest Damage) 5,500,000.00
Sporting Facilities 1,550,000.00
Ports (SCASPA) 885,000.00
NEMA/Security Personnel Overtime 200,000.00
Subtotal (St. Kitts) $41,173,300.00

Social Sectors (Housing, Environment, health, education) 5,901,488.00
Infrastructure (mainly Jetties) 4,731,086.00
Economic Sectors (Agriculture, Tourism) 1,344,236.00
Subtotal (Nevis) $12,021,588.39
TOTAL Federation EC$53,194,888.39

1. Housing Stock – damages range from minor (loss of shingles) to significant damage, i.e. structure cannot be safely occupied without substantial repairs. The National Housing Corporation (NHC) reported a number of homes across St Kitts were affected. The largest numbers are in NEMA districts 3, 6, 7 and 8.

2. Agriculture and Marine – damages include loss of green houses, fruit trees, animal feed, crop fencing, pig pens, equipment and hundreds of animals whose deaths were attributed to Hurricane Irma. There was also significant damage to feeder roads. The Department of Marine Resources reported significant damages principally at the Fisheries Cooperative Building in Dieppe Bay and the break water facility in Old Road.

Outreach To Other Islands
Notwithstanding our own challenges, we have provided relief supplies to St. Maarten, Saba and Anguilla. Over the period 8th to 13th September, 2017 we permitted entry to 251 persons at our Sea Ports. Of this number, 81 persons were from USA, 42 held SKN passports, 42 held French passports, 36 held passports from the Netherlands, 15 held passports from India, 7 held passports from Guyana, 1 held passport from Trinidad and Tobago, 4 held passports from Taiwan, 7 held passports from Ireland and 2 held passports from Russia.
All passengers were processed by Immigration Officers, Customs and Excise Officers, health officials including Veterinary Officers, and officers of the K-9 Unit were also on hand. Immigration officials have reported that passengers had adequate documentation. In sum, due care and attention were paid to all incoming passengers from impacted countries. We did so without compromising our security, our public health and we preserved human dignity. The majority of the vessels brought passengers on trips organized by Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, Four Seasons Resort and Sunil Gehani.

Your Government is a compassionate one. The favour and consideration which we show to others may one day be reciprocated tenfold to our citizens in their moments of distress. The facilitation we proferred is the right and proper thing to have done at this moment of regional distress and dislocation caused by Irma.
We are able to be our brothers’ keeper as a result of God’s Providence. We will do as much as we can. We offer further facilitation to all affected islands.
1. Airport – The RLB International Airport has been offered as a staging platform for relief efforts into St. Barts and French St. Martin, St. Eustatius and Dutch St. Maarten.
2. JNF General Hospital and our other hospitals remain available should the need for health services be required.
3. Secondary Schools – Places will be available to accommodate displaced students in Anguilla, St. Maarten and the BVI who are registered for upcoming CXC exams. They will be offered free enrollment into our schools until their own high schools are ready to accommodate them.
4. Personnel – to assist in the restoration of electricity supply to Anguilla and any other island requesting this assistance.
5. Coast Guard – Coast Guard vessels will assist with transportation where possible.

This support was offered yesterday to Anguilla’s Chief Minister and Government officials who met and accompanied us during our tour of Anguilla. I am grateful to the Chief Minister and Deputy Governor for their updates regarding the nature and extent of damages suffered by Anguilla.

SKN Ministerial Delegations to Anguilla, St. Maarten, the BVI and USVI
Your caring and compassionate Team Unity Government has completed a series of missions in Anguilla, St. Maarten and the British Virgin Islands.

These visits were intended to provide support to our Nationals there and to signal to the rest of the resident community that St. Kitts and Nevis stood in solidarity with them in this their hour of need. We were able to assess the situation on the ground and to relate directly with our people in a way that no second-hand version could have adequately substituted.
Speaking from my own experience, the Chief Minister of Anguilla was very delighted that we had come to visit Anguilla. Our own Nationals – over 100 of them came at short notice to meet my delegation. That was an indication of how important the visit was to them. All of them were encouraged, and their own confidence in their ability to weather the storm was boosted by our interaction.
In the spirit of OECS engagement, we went to those islands because the St. Kitts-Nevis Government wanted to hear from our Nationals, to ascertain their needs and see first-hand how they are coping in the aftermath of what for them has been a traumatic life event.
The psychology of our Nationals receiving the assurance of their leaders cannot be underestimated. Indeed, the joy and love exhibited yesterday by our Nationals provided us with greater certainty as to the value of our presence.

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