Tuesday April 25 marked the opening of the second session of the eleventh parliament. As a symbolic start to the occasion, Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy presented her throne speech to the House of Parliament and the people of Saint Lucia.
In her address she urged the public to think of what it means to be Saint Lucian. She acknowledged the passing of two of our icons: Sir Derek Walcott and Sir Dwight Venner, saying, “We are, all, responsible for the future of Saint Lucia. It is the responsibility born of nationality. ‘I am Saint Lucian’ – ‘moi c’est gens Sent Lucie; c’est la moi sorti; is there that I born’ – we quote our Nobel laureate the late Sir Derek Walcott; we post hashtag 758, but do we stop to appreciate the full importance of being Saint Lucian?”
After her thought-provoking introduction, Dame Pearlette Louisy spoke about the government’s plans for the country’s education system. “My Government views education as an investment in our people, in the future of the country and in our human capital,” she said, noting that there will be emphasis on early childhood development and work to ensure that at least one child in every household is able to receive tertiary education. “Recognizing the need for every citizen to gain access to education and to embrace the philosophy of lifelong learning, my Government intends to establish a First Generation initiative to provide pathways for at least one child from low-income households to access tertiary education.”
Sir Arthur Lewis Community College is still in the process of transitioning into a university. A number of other incentives to be taken by the government to improve education were highlighted.
In her next order of business, the Governor General discussed plans for Saint Lucia’s health service: improvements would be made to address governance, management and financing of the already efficient health sector. Members of the health service continue to work hard with limited resources but with the support of the European Union, additional revenue would be provided.
Her Excellency’s throne speech noted other pertinent issues such as climate change, safety and security, promoting renewable energy and the need for all citizens to be embraced in the government’s decisions. Concerning economics and investments, the Governor General highlighted tourism and agriculture. “Real growth and development are distinguished by a Government’s ability to meet the current needs of its people and industries without compromising the opportunity for future generations to meet their needs. My Government is committed to revitalizing the priority sectors of tourism, agriculture, housing, industry and commerce in partnership with the Saint Lucia Development Bank.”
The Governor General further stated that the government is planning to initiate the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority. “The Authority will operate to advance and facilitate the efficient growth and development of the tourism industry, to implement suitable marketing strategies for the effective promotion of the destination and to encourage the establishment and enhancement of appropriate amenities, facilities and destination services. The Authority will also facilitate linkages between tourism and other sectors of the economy.”
For the agricultural industry, the Government of Saint Lucia believes it can create employment and food security for the country. However, the focus is not only on banana farming but includes the production of all other crops. “The high susceptibility of the island to natural disasters, as well as the adverse effects of climate change, have contributed to the contraction of the banana industry and to the agricultural sector overall. My Government will therefore ensure that Climate Smart Agricultural policies and programmes are adopted to meet the related challenges of food security and climate change.”
The Governor General related that the Saint Lucian government had prioritized the justice system and would continue to do its best to support the new Director of Public Prosecutions and the newly reopened forensics lab.
“It is our intention to provide the requisite resources for addressing the number of cases still pending before the criminal courts, while promoting long-term systemic and administrative efficiency,” she said.
The boulder of the CARICOM IMPACS situation was also addressed. “The report of the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) has had adverse consequences for Saint Lucia internally as well as in our relationships with external partners. My Government continues to work assiduously to free ourselves of this albatross and to ensure that identified deficiencies are addressed, the trust and confidence of our people are regained, and our international image and reputation restored.”
In her closing remarks, Dame Pearlette Louisy sent condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones during the explosion on Rayneau Gajadhar’s quarry last month.
She ended on a persuasive note: “I therefore issue to all Saint Lucians a call to take up the gauntlet of transformation – to infuse into the national psyche our distinctiveness, strength of character, genius and individual endowment. Let us with singularity of purpose, commit ourselves to fashioning our new Saint Lucia.”