Despite our current challenges, our future is bright and prosperous
by Leader of the Opposition Dr Godwin Friday
Fellow Vincentians, The anniversary of national Independence is upon us again. This should be a happy time for all Vincentians and well-wishers.
But, we must acknowledge that, for many of us, it is not. Nevertheless, let us embrace the occasion as a time to come together and focus on the things that bind us as a nation and let us summon the courage and strength to confront the challenges ahead.
Our nation’s story is not merely a series of events, but an enduring process of development and change. The celebration of the anniversary of Independence is best seen in this light. And so, it ought to move us to engage in personal and collective introspection about our current condition and enable us to see our problems and their solutions more clearly. It should also instil in us hope for a brighter future.
Leaders in all sectors of society must recognize our responsibility to our nation. Far too often in our country, power is used, not as a ladder to help other people up, but as a hammer to beat them down. In other words, it is abused. We can stop this! Ordinary people, should they choose to use their mass power, can put an end to the routine abuse of power in our country. When people are elevated to high office, they must know that they are there not because it is their birth right, but because they have been put there by the people to serve them, not to lord over them. Accordingly, our people must insist that leaders, political and otherwise, respect them and always account to them. Accountability is essential to good governance in all aspect of society. It should, therefore, be our watchword going forward!
Economy and Development
The current situation of economic stagnation and moral decline in our country is not inevitable. It is the result of the way we have managed (or mismanaged) our affairs over the years. We cannot continue to do the same thing the same way and expect a better outcome. A new approach to governance and the practices of business and civil society is required. An essential aspect is the need for us to work together as one people seeking to create prosperity and social progress for all.
It is imperative that we give priority to making our economy work to create jobs for our people–especially the young people– and better opportunities for our local business people. High taxation and low wages are a painful combination that hold us back and make us poor. High electricity costs compound the problem. Despite the outward trappings of wealth, most people have seen their living standards decline, and are finding it more difficult to make ends meet. They now have very little or no disposable income to allow them to enjoy life in our beautiful country.
Let us work together to turn this situation around. The fruits of labour cannot continue to be for the benefit of a privileged, well-connected few. The anniversary of independence is a good time to reflect on our situation and commit ourselves to changing it for the better.
Confronting Social Problems
Our social problems are many and serious. It should not be that, on the 40th anniversary of independence, a constant topic on the lips of our people is the alarming rape culture that now pervades our society. Women, young girls and children are vulnerable and are increasingly preyed upon. The frequent incidents of rape and sexual violence cannot be accepted as the norm. The emotional and physical injury caused by sexual violence is well documented in the work of health professionals and social scientists. Far too many of us know people who have been victims of sexual abuse and violence. Yet, there is no collective sense of outrage and urgency to confront the problem. If we are to live up to the promise of an SVG working for all of us, this situation must change as we go forward into our next 40 years of independence.
On this our 40th birthday as a nation, let us do something truly meaningful by committing that, henceforth, we will not only talk but will deal effectively with the problem of rape and sexual violence in our country. Our schools, our churches and our workplaces, should adopt a zero-tolerance approach toward sexual abuse. If we are to deal with this scourge properly, our attitude must be aligned with our actions. In tackling the problem, emphasis should be placed on prevention. Moreover, effective procedures to discourage, detect and punish sexual abuse must be implemented. Our police need better training. The curriculum of the police training school should be revised to include more extensive training in how to investigate and prosecute rape and sexual assault cases. The judiciary should also keep in step with changing social attitudes toward the problem and manage the judicial process to achieve justice for victims of abuse and deter potential perpetrators.
I am encouraged and inspired by the strong commitment of our brothers and sisters in the diaspora — Toronto, Montreal, New York, Miami, Maryland, London and elsewhere. Your material contribution to the country is immense and is greatly appreciated. Continue to support your loved ones and your special causes at home. More importantly, continue to engage in the constant quest to identify and solve our economic and social problems so that our future may be brighter together.
We are a decent, God-fearing people. We care about one another, though we may not always show it. Ignore the cynical people in our midst who may discourage our tendency to do good. Look after one another. Our Christian tradition calls us to be each other’s keeper. Our success as a nation depends on it.
We thank God for guarding our nation and for giving us the chance to correct our mistakes as we move forward.
Happy 40th, SVG!
May God continue to bless us and save our nation.