As Vincentians in New York on Sunday climaxed their celebration of the nation’s 35th year of political independence, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has commended them for their efforts in nation-building.
In his independence message, read by New York Counsel General Selmon Walters, at a gala Luncheon and Awards Ceremony in at Tropical Paradise Ballroom on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, Gonsalves said he felt “a tremendous sense of pride in extending warm greetings and congratulations to all Vincentians.
“I commend all for the work that they are doing to advance their personal well-being and our national development agenda, and urge that we use this opportunity to reflect on our nation’s remarkable achievements over the last 35 years,” he said.
Conversely, the Vincentian leader urged that a “critical look” be taken at the nation’s “failures and shortcomings with the aim of effecting the necessary improvements and learning the lessons that lived experience and reflection can impart.”
He noted that the natural disasters of the recent past have “shown yet again that Vincentians in the Diaspora retain a strong sense of nationhood and love for their fellow nationals in distress.”
The prime minister said the material and emotional support provided in the aftermath of last year’s freak Christmas storm, which he described as “one of the most trying periods in our country’s recent history,” represents an “incontrovertible testimony of the enduring bonds of love and solidarity between our resident and overseas-based populations.”
Vincentians in New York, through the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Emergency Relief Committee, recently handed over a US$20,000 check to Foreign Affairs Minister Camillo Gonsalves for delivery to the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO).
The money was a significant part of the amount raised by nationals here in wake of the Christmas storm that killed at least seven people and left millions of dollars in damage and destruction of the country’s infrastructure and housing stock.
The committee also shipped four 40-ft.-containers of relief supplies for distribution by NEMO to nationals.
“We take this opportunity to thank you for the critical role you played in the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts consequent upon the unprecedented floods of Dec. 24, 2013,” said Gonsalves in his message. “You have shown time and time again that the nation of ‘home’ extends well beyond any geographical boundaries.”
He said his administration is committed to preparing nationals to “take advantage of advance in technology, opportunities for self-development and continuing education, and all the possibilities offered by a transformed global environment,” as it focuses on achieving “even greater success in the coming period.”
The prime minister also said his government is mindful of the challenges presented by the “prevailing global economic conditions, climate change and its ramifications in the form of adverse weather events which have increased in both frequency and intensity; new and more virulent strains of diseases; war, conflict and the ever-looming threat of terrorism, among others.
“All of these must be decisively addressed even as we redouble efforts to improve the standard of living of all our people through, among other things, poverty reduction, the modernization of the health sector, the provision of education for all, and the robust implementation of policies on housing and infrastructural development, as evident in the ongoing construction of the international airport at Argyle, which is nearing completion,” he said.
But, in the face of significant challenges, Gonsalves said St. Vincent and the Grenadines remains a “nation of people with abiding faith in the mercy and compassion of God, with a clear vision of the direction in which we wish to go, and confidence in our God-given abilities to attain our national development goals and objectives.”