The wine was flowing, an assortment of cheese was being served, along with freshly baked baguettes. On one side of the yard, crepes fanned a table. A French celebration was in full swing in honour of Bastille Day. On July 14th, 1789, after the storming of the infamous Bastille prison in Paris, French National Day was born. French Ambassador in St Lucia, Eric de la Moussaye and his wife Martine, opened the doors of their Rodney Bay residence to the prime minister, Kenny Anthony, several government officials, fellow diplomats, French nationals, specially invited guests including Derek Walcott and Lady Janice Compton, and a host of other well-wishers on the 225th anniversary of the event that marked the beginning of the French Revolution.
Moussaye was appreciative of the huge turnout.
“Such an attitude is for us European nations, an encouragement to aid you in the best possible way on your path to the economic growth and social progress of St Lucia.”
Michael Balfour, delegate of the European Union, was on hand to tour the national hospital and was thrilled to be present for what he termed ‘a landmark event.’
“I would like to wish you a world of freedom, equality, and fraternity as your forefathers cried out 225 years ago.”
Kenny Anthony remarked on the impact France has had globally.
“The Bastille Day is not only important for the French republic and French people, but indeed for all peoples throughout the world. Those words, liberty, fraternity, equality, inspired those who were in chains, those who lived on the yolk of colonialism and those who were in search of democracy. To this day those words continue to inspire. Those words touched us in St Lucia during that revolutionary period. Some would know that those words inspired rebellion by brigands mainly concentrated in the south of the island and of course other revolutionary activity here in St Lucia.”
The French and English famously battled for St Lucia fourteen times before the UK eventually emerged victorious. But the French heritage is still steeped in our culture.
“We are who we are as a people because we too have been shaped by our long historical association with France. As I said recently to a crowd in London, we are a wonderful mix of cultures. African culture, French culture, English culture. And I have no doubt the passion that we have for living, the joie de vivre that we have, has been inspired by that French heritage of ours. The French have given us so much more in this island, so much more. They have defined us in ways sometimes we may not even realize. But we are, I think, the extraordinary people we are partly, as I suggested, because of that heritage that has survived over the years.”
The Prime Minister was particularly thankful for France on this occasion for two significant reasons, each beneficial to the island.
“We have so much reason to thank France and to thank you for your contribution to this country. Two events occurred these past few days that reminded us of how important that relationship with France is. The first occurred when I was in Brussels a couple of days ago and when I asked about the waiver of Schengen visas which is likely to occur with St Lucia and three other countries of the Eastern Caribbean. In particular I asked which country in the EU championed the cause of St Lucia and the EC states. Without hesitation, and I will not name the official, they said France. And I want to take the opportunity to thank your government as well as the European Union for the efforts to open the doors of Europe to our people.”
The second event which resonated with the PM involves the soon to be open national hospital, which was erected thanks in part to a generous contribution.
“It was an interesting statistic that emerged this afternoon when the question was asked which countries had been the main backers of the hospital. Who provided the bulk of the finance? Amazingly it was a replay of the very history that we have shared between the great powers France and the United Kingdom. Between them, they provided 35 or roughly a third of the resources made available for the construction of that hospital.”
Following the speeches a spread of traditional French delicacies was enjoyed by the gathering, courtesy of Sugar Beach.