January 01, 2008
A Transcript Of The Premier of Nevis 2008 New Year’s Address
I bring New Year’s greeting to all Nevisians at home and abroad and to all those viewing, listening or following this address via the Internet.
Firstly, I must thank God for the successes of 2007. My team of Hensley Daniel, Robelto Hector, Dwight Cozier and Carlisle Powell, have worked remarkably hard to make life better for all Nevisians. It was not just the construction of the island main road or the other roads done; it was the emphasis we placed on improving the lives of our people.
Our senior citizens were of the highest priority for us. The Government not only ensured that the highest standards were maintained at the Flamboyant Home, but gave good support to the Senior Citizens Home at Gingerland to ensure that it, too continued to give of the best service to the residents there.
Senior Citizens Day was a high point for all of us in 2007. We are aware of the many sacrifices our parents and grandparents made to care for us to provide for us, to educate us, through their hard labour in the fields, at sea and overseas. It was important to recognize their contribution to us as individuals and to the development of Nevis during the last century. Our efforts included arranging for those who were still active to socialize with one another on a regular basis and being part of field trips to various places on the island. We use every opportunity to honour them on television on special occasions.
In 2008, we will continue to give our fullest support to them as we seek to strengthen family bonds in each community as we continue to highlight the great significance of the family and family life.
My Government, in its efforts to fulfill the dreams and hopes of our people and the promise to have one trained person in each home in five years has supported over one hundred persons at tertiary institutions regionally and internationally. Many other programmes in Management, Accounting, Supervision and Technical Skills were conducted locally in an effort to ready Nevisians to take leadership roles in the private and public sectors of our economy.
My Government has started a number of initiatives to address the matter of persons under-qualified or not qualified to benefit from the employment which will be available as the island continues to benefit from our thrust towards economic development.
The Ministry of Social Transformation and SEDU have had short courses to prepare our people for the workplace. Training will be on-going as it is our intention to have our people, fill top positions as well as other positions in all businesses that will be attracted to Nevis in the short and long term.
In 2008, we shall address the matter in a more strategic fashion. In the early days of January, a small team from a training institution in Trinidad will be visiting Nevis at the invitation of Minister Daniel.
The purpose of the visit is two-fold. Firstly, the team will be meeting contractors and mechanics to determine their needs. Out of this exercise will emerge a training programme to be implemented locally. This programme will be tailored for the many youngsters who have just left school, those who have been out of work, and those who have not been exposed to skills training in any form.
Secondly, fifteen (15) persons will be indentified who have leadership potential in our communities for training in Trinidad. On their return to Nevis they will be expected to be role models in their community. We believe this will discourage delinquency and idleness and promote positive behavior and a healthy attitude to work.
Training will also continue in the community centres to complement these efforts. Men and women will be exposed to utility training, cottage type activities and home development. The community centres will also be a point of focus for research, computer type activities and recreation.
These activities will have a component associated with the unit that is being established to resolve the issues of absentee parents and problems in the home. Again the purpose is to strengthen the family unit and to help our young people to adjust to the changing demands of our society.
We have done much work to strengthen the education system. All Nevisians must continue to experience pride at the performance of our outstanding students. We must use these successes as an impetus to reach all our people and to make sure they do well. In January of this year the new St John’s Primary School will be opened to the children of the area. Every effort is being made to secure the area. There is a pond nearby, which is being fenced off, the school compound is being fenced and later in the year a playfield for the children and the community will be established on the Flats.
The Charlestown Primary School is over-crowded. In January four new classrooms will become available to the school. The long-term plan is to purchase more land in the area and expand the school. The Government will provide a new computer system for all the primary schools this year and the Schools Meals programme will be expanded to include the St John’s Primary early in the New Year.
The two high schools are also of serious concern to us. In 2008, we will address the overcrowding in the staffroom at C.S.S. We must take the staffroom one storey high to provide additional space for staff. An additional four classrooms must also be constructed. The long-term plan for the school, however, is now being formulated and will be presented to a funding agency for consideration.
The roof at the Gingerland High School is its biggest problem. We will also examine the range of subjects available at the school to ensure the students there are not disadvantaged.
Special attention will be paid to the following:
(1) The department of education will be reorganized to deliver the strongest support to our schools.
(2) On-going training of teachers to be a priority.
(3) All teachers to be trained and all new teachers to be given the support they need to ensure the delivery of good education to the students.
(4) A proper incentive programme for teachers will be completed before September of 2008 to supplement the efforts we have given to teachers in training and those who have graduated from the Clarence-Fitzroy Bryant College.
Finally in regard to education, I am appealing to all parents and guardians to support the home work assistance programme. It is highly regarded regionally and will be funded by an external agency later in 2008.
However, unless the impact is realized in the delivery of a higher level of performance we would have wasted valuable time, money and effort. And it cannot succeed without your fullest support.
I wish to speak to you now on crime.
From a statistical point of view the evidence demonstrates that the crime rate on Nevis is low. It is also clear that we had about four serious crimes in 2007 which resulted in two deaths and several serious injuries. That is too many for anyone’s comfort on an island as small as ours.
My government, on taking office has introduced a number of programmes to alleviate crime in the long-term. The initiatives in Education, Training and job provisions are to help with this problem. Your government has provided support in Community Affairs, the Ministry of Education and the schools to identify the potentially dangerous situations and seek to resolve them. We have given the police our total commitment to work with them in their effort to fight crime. However, the problem cannot be solved only by the Government, the police and the schools. We need the support of parents and the wider community.
Parents are working at two jobs, sometimes parents are away at work in the evenings. However, they need to know what is happening to their children when they are away from home and at work. Parents need to take active interest in their children, know their children’s friends and how they conduct themselves at school and at play. Parents need to establish a close working relationship with teachers of their children and learn to trust and have confidence in the teachers. Parents must also accept that all children do wrong at sometime or the other. Be on top of your children. Sometimes you let them be in too many unsupervised activities. Sometimes your children are in the company of others who are much older than they are. Some groups are inappropriate for them to be part of. Please don’t fail your children. Be a parent first and then a friend to your child.
The church and other leaders in our community need to join with all the other stake-holders to stop this march in the wrong direction. This year, I would like us to use the radio, television, and the street corners to reach our young people. We must once again teach respect for life and limb; and manners and good behavior must become relevant again in our community.
There are two trends that are very evident today which can do so much harm to our island if they are not arrested immediately. The first relates to the creeping intolerance and anger among our people. The smallest offence is rewarded with a violent reaction and retaliation, often with knives and guns. With this is the holding of grudges for months and sometimes years. Too often when these persons seek revenge it is in crowded areas where innocent bystanders have been wounded and in the past, and on one occasion fatally.
Secondly, at primary and secondary levels, the sub-culture of gangs is taking root. The phenomenon of the Crips and the Bloods, the Blue and Red Ribbon alliances must be broken now. How silly can we get when a blue or red ribbon determines where you can go on the island of Nevis. Just recently two brothers’ children, one from Charlestown, the other from Cotton Ground were involved in a gang altercation. Did anyone tell them that their fathers were brothers?
This behavior is ripping apart the future of our society and eventually can destroy our economy which depends to a large extent on the low crime rate and our reputation for peace and quiet.
I appeal to the media which has a big influence on the public to help us to return us to civility and good behavior. It is not all right that anything goes, that you can give vent to your feelings when and how you wish.
We need to have a process of healing and the institution of family and community must become important again.
We have depended in the past, basically on the intervention of the police. The police have worked hard to stabilize the crime situation. They have become more visible in Charlestown and in other parts of the island and it is anticipated they would become increasingly involved in community policing.
The Nevis Island Administration has continued to provide support to the police. Repairs have been done to the Newcastle Police Station. The police premises at Bath will receive extensive repairs in 2008 and construction will start on the new Cotton Ground Police Station.
We have also had an increase of the Force by five recruits in December. We hope to continue this work in the New Year.
Your Government is of the view for it to be more effective in the fight against crime and for its policies to be fully beneficial to the people of Nevis the police need to know where the authority of this Nevis Island Administration begins and ends and what is its relationship with the Nevis Island Administration? Last year had its challenges with the police from the view point of the authority. If the police are not clear, if the government is not confident what the role of the police is, we can have a problem with law and order on Nevis.
Serious development will always be accompanied by new law and order issues and challenges. The police and the government must have the same mission and the same goals when it relates to law and order. In 2008, your Government is working towards that point of clarification with the Federal government. It will be part of the package to strengthen the Nevis Island Administration in its position to have legislative authority over a number of issues such as Education, Health and Labour. Such issues need to be directed by us if our programmes are to be effective and meaningful in the long-term.
With development come benefits, responsibilities and problems. It is the business of your government to know and to anticipate its’ problems. There is no labour union on Nevis, nor has there been any history of the labour union movement here. However, there are work-related issues emerging as more and more Nevisians take up positions in the work-place.
Complaints about unfair dismissals have reached us, complaints about conditions in the work-place have reached us and complaints about pay have reached us. We have also heard about attitudes by workers in the work-place and their attitude to work. These problems are not new. They develop whenever there are workers and employers.
The government of Nevis, working with the Department of Labour will organize a series of meetings with employers and workers in 2008 to determine what the real issues are. We will seek to establish a stronger relationship with all the stakeholders with a view to ensuring that Nevisians are respected and protected in the work-place, that they are fairly compensated for their labour and that the service they give enhances the reputation of our island.
In 2008, your Government will continue to address the issue of high prices. World oil prices continue to rise. It is a reality for all of us in the Caribbean that prices of goods and other commodities imported from abroad will also increase until and unless the price of oil stabilizes. For our part, we will do the following:
1. Establish a food basket of the basic food supplies. We will seek to control the prices of these items.
2. We will continue to make land available to Nevisians at an affordable rate.
3. We will seek to adopt a number of measures outlined in the People’s Agenda to assist our people.
We are also hopeful that our exploration of Geothermal Energy will be successful. It will certainly lead very quickly to the reduction in the cost of electricity and could also become an income earner for all of us and be an attraction for new businesses to set up on the island of Nevis.
So far, I have focused on our people. It is a preparation, a preparation of things to come. I anticipate that 2008, once again, will be the year for Nevis and Nevisians; the year when the hard work of this Administration over the last sixteen months will begin to bear fruit. Starting in January, a number of private sector projects would be under construction creating a stream of employment that would last for a long, long time. The theme of the budget was “Moving to a higher level of Progress, People empowerment.” The message is simple and clear. We are preparing our people to take their rightful place in the development of Nevis. The Tourism industry will lead the change towards increased job creation, but we anticipate a diversity of development programmes including geothermal exploration, information technology and agricultural activities and agro-processing that will also generate income and jobs. We are inviting the private sector to join hands with us as we move forward to a higher level. We are inviting all government workers to give of their best as we change the face of Nevis for the better.
I must reiterate that I am very pleased with the performance of the government. I am very pleased with the performance of the cabinet and the cabinet ministers, but even further to improve the performance, from the first of January 2008, Minister Dwight Cozier will take over the responsibilities for the Ministry’s of Trade and Industry. These are important industries in terms of job creation and training for our young people. It is our belief that as a former businessman he can bring experience and knowledge to these industries and therefore help us as we continue to take the island of Nevis along the road of progress.
Finally, I must remind you that this year we are celebrating 25 years of Independence. We are already putting together a committee, a team to organize and oversee the implementation of the anniversary activities. This anniversary must be a historic one. We must honour our past heroes and celebrate outstanding sons and daughters of the soil who have contributed in the field of Sport, Culture, Education, the Arts, Service and Technology, Agriculture and Industry. We must use this opportunity to send a message to our young people that much has been achieved in the past and since independence; a foundation has been laid on which they must build on. They are part and parcel of this march of progress and they need to identify very closely with the movement. We, in turn, must reach out to them and embrace them. This 25th Anniversary is an opportunity for us the older ones and the younger ones. We will lead by example and ensure that every Nevisian boy and every Nevisian girl know the history of Nevis, that they know their heritage and those who contributed to it. It is our intention to change the face of Nevis for the better, to make sure that on the island of Nevis you can identify where you are and the persons who have contributed to the development of this island.
I end by saying that we have had a great year. The good Lord was good to us, he ensured that we suffered no hurricanes, no serious adversaries, people worked well. I must congratulate the civil servants for the great work that they did generally with the administration. For the difference that was made by the Ministry of Finance, Inland Revenue, the Treasury, Ministry of Agriculture, by all the Corporations, Ministry of Social Transformation, Department of Health and Education. They did a great job for the people of Nevis. I am expected that in the year 2008, we will continue to buckle down and in terms of getting projects done on time; the Ministry of Planning and Development will also be part of that big march home.
I end by saying to all of you, on behalf of my government and on behalf of my wife and family, I wish you a happy New Year, I wish you good health, and I also wish you to continue enjoying the things that you like to do best.
May God bless you all! Good night!