The following was Gilbert Chagoury’s acceptance speech at Government House last week, before specially invited guests including government and opposition officials, but no press:
“I stand in honor today of this beautiful country, extremely touched by a great honor bestowed on me for the second time by the governor general and the government of Saint Lucia. The first time, I was honored by my nomination in 1995 as ambassador and permanent delegate of Saint Lucia to UNESCO by the late John Compton. I was later nominated ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and ambassador of Saint Lucia to the Vatican. Since the first day of my nomination I have been serving the government and people of Saint Lucia with great joy and immense pride.“Today I am being honored for the second time by being awarded the Saint Lucia Cross and Order of Saint Lucia. I am very grateful, Your Excellency. I therefore stand before you feeling very humble and proud as a Saint Lucian at heart, being recognized and awarded for his services. My only regret
is that my wife Rosemary was not allowed to fly with me by her doctors and to be by my side on this memorable and wonderful day. Serving Saint Lucia has been a privilege, considering the quality of its leaders and its people—a hard-working people known for its kindness and for its resilience.
“Believe me it is precious for an ambassador to represent a country that is always on the right side; the side of those who share the values and principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For more than two decades I have worked to promote and protect the interests of Saint Lucia. Our relationship with the Vatican is tighter than ever and at the highest level. In UNESCO Saint Lucia is undoubdtedly the most permament visible and respected developing small island state, and it would not be an exaggeration to add even more than bigger member states.
“If you would allow me to deviate for a moment from my speech, I want to say something that happened with me at the UNESCO. The Japanese decided to present their candidate. I was privileged to speak to the prime minister of Saint Lucia and advise him: why don’t we present somebody from the Caribbean? I was really hoping we would have somebody from Saint Lucia, because I knew some people from Saint Lucia were extremely appreciated by the members of UNESCO.
“But they insisted on giving me someone from another island. And for three consecutive elections the Japanese candidate could never get a majority. We couldn’t either. We knew we were not able to win. He asked to see me, and that is not easy for the representative of Japan who is going to be the next director to ask for the ambassador of a small country. He asked me, ‘What do you want?’ I said
I don’t understand. He asked again: ‘What do you want? Why are you blocking the elections?’
“I said I am not blocking the elections. I have a candidate, you have a candidate, may the best man win. He said, ‘You know why are you are against me?’ I said because you visited every country everywhere and I did not hear of you visiting my country. He said: ‘Can I make a commitment that if I am elected the first country I visit would be Saint Lucia?’ I said OK. When he was elected I went to congratulate him. I said we are very small country and we would be needing your help. He said please please, please, maybe in size you are a small country but at UNESCO you are a very, very, very big country.’ And his first visit was to Saint Lucia.
“In UNESCO Saint Lucia is undoubtedly the most prominent and visible respected small island developing state. And it will not be an exaggeration to add, even more than big member states. We have won every single election we have participated in, and we have chaired the most prestigious inter-governmental bodies. Please allow me to use this ceremony to renew to the Government of Saint Lucia my commitment to service with the best of my ability and with all my heart.
“I hope to continue contributing through my work to the place and role of Saint Lucia in the international community punching above its weight, where it can defend its positions and its values. I would like to conclude by sincerely thanking the governor general, the prime minister, and the government of Saint Lucia for the trust they have bestowed on me all those years and for the great honor of awarding me the Saint Lucia Cross and the Order of Saint Lucia.”