Prime Minister Dr. The Rt. Hon. Keith C. Mitchell
40th Anniversary of Independence
Address to the nation
February 7, 2014
Fellow citizens, brothers and sisters, friends of Grenada, all…
It is with a profound sense of pride that I behold this gathering, so brightly decked in our national colours and displaying our true national spirit.
I commend all our citizens on the series of activities in commemoration of our Independence that are culminating here today — especially the national clean-up campaign. I was truly moved by our people’s collective involvement and genuine display of patriotism.
I especially applaud the hard work of our National Celebrations Committee. This Independence Festival has been truly enjoyable and very successful. We salute your service to our Nation.
I also thank everyone for their assistance given to our sisters and brothers in neighbouring islands after the devastation of the Christmas Eve storms.
Indeed, I continue to be confident in our people’s ability to unite in the face of adversity and to be good neighbours.
Today, we stand together as one — never more proud to be Grenadian.
I am sure that all around the world, our people — wherever they are — are celebrating with us, and celebrating us; celebrating this beautiful Nation, on this our very special day.
Sisters and brothers, as I stand here, my belief in the future of this Nation has never been stronger.
We see the future in the eyes of our children, and we hear it in their voices raised in song. We see it in the young men and women — who are among the brightest and the best one can find anywhere.
We know the future beckons in the voices of ordinary men and women—the vendors and the farmers; the fishermen and mothers — whose rhythm of life is the cadence that moves our Nation.
Brothers and sisters, hope has returned to this Nation.
We give thanks for the extraordinary blessings that we enjoy each day and the longstanding core values and principles that we hold dear and that guide our paths as a people.
Let us toast this remarkably young, but maturing democracy that we have cultivated; nurtured through these 40 years of literal blood, sweat and tears. Now, we are here today as a model of peace and stability in our region.
We acknowledge and applaud the support of friends, allies and development partners who have stood with us in our darkest days and who stand with us on the cusp of our new dawn.
We are a Nation whose national flag was revealed in the darkness of night, while reaching for an uncertain dawn amidst the bitter woes of partisanship.
Today, we are emerging as a shining Caribbean example, built on the boldness of our Father of Independence.
I take a moment, brothers and sisters, to pause in recognition of our forefather who had the courage to chase such an audacious dream.
Sir Eric Gairy, your audacious call echoes from the hills of Mt. St Catherine to the beaches of Grand Anse; and from the historic fishing village of Gouyave in the West to the eccentric shorelines of Marquis in the East.
In expression of gratitude for his life’s work and vision, Government has taken the decision — among other recognitions yet to be unveiled — to rename the Tanteen Roundabout and the Botanical Gardens after Sir Eric Matthew Gairy.
Sir Eric, we salute you.
Today, the result of Sir Eric’s bold Independence experiment is visible, and is mirrored in the academic, sporting, and professional exploits of our people, and in the building and sustaining of this democracy through 40 years.
Sisters and brothers, let us continue to highlight the achievements of our people: be it in academics, sports and culture — whatever the field. Let us give flowers to those who achieve while they are still alive: the likes of Kirani James, our Olympic hero; Dr. Lamuel Stanislaus — a distinguished gentleman now in his twilight years, who served our Nation with distinction for decades — and so many others over the years.
I congratulate all our men and women who have placed, and continue to place our nation on the map, and who continue to fly high the Grenadian flag.
For every nation in Africa and the Caribbean that emerged from the era of colonialism, the 40th anniversary of independence has been regarded as a coming of age.
And so too my friends, is the case with this great nation of ours.
Indeed, an entire generation of proud Grenadians has grown up and has begun to make their mark in the world.
It is this generation—guided by the nutmeg and stars — that we are depending on to build us this prosperous future that was the very premise and promise of our independence.
The scars of the 1970s, the joy and then the pain of the early 1980s, and the fresh sense of hope brought on by the years of democratic rule, must inspire our new generation of leaders.
Forty years, sisters and brothers, is a landmark in Biblical times. Moses and the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, until they were able to see the Promised Land.
In much the same way, our democracy has struggled to consolidate since the dawn of Independence, but we now see a better day; albeit one that requires shared sacrifices, and our collective responsibility.
My friends, 40 years is enough to get it right.
At 40, everyone must take responsibility for his or her actions.
At 40, we should each be standing on our own two feet and should be taking control of our own destiny.
At 40, we should be more open and inclusive in our vision; and more productive in our work.
At 40, we should have a clear vision of what will and will not work for us.
Today therefore, at the mature age of 40, can we truly say that we, as a people are getting it right? Can we truly say that we are more responsible, more inclusive, more patriotic and more productive?
Brothers and sisters, I believe that the time has come — in fact the time is long overdue, for us as a nation to take a more collaborative, comprehensive and long-term view of national development.
I take this opportunity to express gratitude in this same atmosphere of cooperation, for the broad support for our Homegrown Programme to ensure a secure economic future for us, our children and grand children.
While the rough and tumble politics has an inescapable part in a robust democracy, the vision for a better future must not be held hostage to five year electoral cycles.
I appreciate, as a political combatant myself — one of more than 30 years vintage — that this may be easier said than done.
But for the benefit of the next generation, we have to begin to lay a foundation steeped in selfless nationalism.
And so, I say to friend and foe — that in the interest of the long term viability of this nation, we must find some common ground.
In answering that call, I must say, that despite our differences, the common ground of those that have agreed to work together has been the deep abiding acceptance that Grenada belongs to all of us, and as such we are putting Grenada first.
We are too small not to have any shared interests.
We are too Grenadian, and we are too proud, not to be able to unite on the shared sacrifices that we need to make now for our economic revival.
Instead of simply debating how we got here, let us unite on the resolve about getting out of here.
Let us continue the dialogue about the future of our economy on the premise that we want to build a society that can pay its way and that can take care of its people.
In this regard, we commend the work of our Social Partners — Labour Unions, Business, Civil Society, Churches and Government — who are currently engaged in the preparation of a Social Compact. The process is now well advanced. When signed, it will only be a historic instrument of governance, and a further demonstration that we are indeed maturing as a Nation.
Let us continue the dialogue about the future of our economy on the premise that our people must have more jobs, better health care and better education.
As we enter this 41st year of independence, we must come to the realisation that the world has changed.
The advanced economies are preoccupied with their challenges such as economic growth, fiscal sustainability and terrorism, such that they are less concerned with the special circumstances of small nations such as ours.
And so this calls for a different mindset at home; and for the nurturing of different relationships abroad.
It also calls for a different type of leadership.
One year ago, the people gave this government that remarkable responsibility.
It is in this context that I again offer my hand to my political opponents. I say, come let us build our Nation together.
While it is our hope that everyone will answer this call, we accept that there are those who, for whatever reason, will not join in our efforts. Let that be their choice, but let the rest of us continue to show good will to each other in this time of nation building.
This year; and this time; in this defining moment in our history — this is the time and place where we must take a stand TOGETHER — in solving the structural problems of our economy.
And that is why I say to my friends in the Trade Union movement, some of whom may not yet fully appreciate the challenge we face—nor the urgency of now—we must understand that when we meet and negotiate on those hefty matters, we are not just bargaining for our core constituencies; but for the vulnerable and the elderly; for the children and the unemployed; for better healthcare, education and improved infrastructure.
We are bargaining for the future.
Rest assured that in this Government you have a partner. Therefore, let us place national interest over sectoral interest.
That is why I have begun speaking to some colleagues and advisors to come up with the framework for authoring a long term national economic plan.
I will say more on this on a subsequent occasion.
This modern day national leadership core — in both government and opposition — who are the inheritors of the vision of Sir Eric Gairy and the valiance of Maurice Bishop — must lead the march into the next 40 years.
After forty years, it is time to wean ourselves of some of the remaining vestiges of colonialism — and so this is a fitting year for constitutional reform.
That is why we have set up a National Advisory Committee on Constitution Reform.
Yes, fellow citizens, the time is right for us to have our home-grown Constitution. Let us seize the moment as we prepare for a referendum on our new Constitution later this year.
We call on our development partners to support us in this quest to refine our national identity within a more suitable framework for our long term development.
My fellow Grenadians, as I look back over the years, I accept the mistakes made by successive governments — mine included.
I accept that these growing pains were all part of the growing up process. Let those experiences be instructive, and let us learn from history and not repeat our errors of the past.
That is why we must look forward with hope and a clear vision.
I see a society that is leading the way among nations in the region in many aspects; a society that recognises the need to use technology as the platform to develop our resources, and hence, the lives of our people.
Technology has to be the thrust that optimizes our educational, entrepreneurial and employment opportunities to lead the way in our economic revival. The mandates of the New Economy must be enacted in order to fulfil the expectations of our young people.
The time is now to embrace it like never before, and I promise you that this government will spare no effort in ensuring that our young people, and by extension, our nation, are moving with the times.
My friends, for Moses and the Israelites, 40 years was the time it took to make their way out of the desert.
We have been wandering far too long in the desert of fiscal irresponsibility, and low productivity; living beyond our means; spending way more than we earn; with a wage bill that accounts for 70 cents of every dollar.
There is no sustainability in this, sisters and brothers, and we must take the collective responsibility to fix this — NOW!
Fiscal irresponsibility undermines our very independence. For this reason, our Government will introduce Fiscal Responsibility legislation.
I urge us all to join hands in this effort to continue the revival of our economy; put our people back to work by creating opportunities; pay our bills; and help unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of our youth —thereby reducing dependence on Government.
For this reason, Government is providing business loans, investing in skills training, educational opportunities and technological access for our people. We are working diligently everyday to ensure that more opportunities are created for our people.
Sisters and brothers, I stand here today with pride; with a renewed sense of will; knowing that we will emerge out of the dust, and we shall rise again, and cross over to a place of renewed optimism, unity, and prosperity.
The Holy Scriptures declare in I Corinthians 13.11 (New Living Translation) and I quote “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” End of quote.
I stand here today as your humble servant who has been given the onus to lead a 40 year old Independent Nation of hardworking, responsible citizens.
Let us set aside childish ways, learn from past mistakes and resolve to walk with purpose to our Promised Land. Let the vision of our Father of Independence shine brightly as we strive for a better life—for our children and grandchildren.
Let the collective laughter and goodwill of our people endure through these tough times. And let the demonstrated love for our neighbor and our Nation, be the bridge that connects our pride and vision.And let our faith in God, the Supreme Architect, never waver.
I thank you.