The United States has extended congratulations to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on their 36th year of political independence.
“The warm spirit of the people of your archipelago entices visitors from around the world to enjoy the golden sands of the Grenadines, your beautiful waterfalls, rugged mountains and the musical storytelling of your calypsonians,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement, on behalf of President Barack Obama.
“This year, the United States reaffirmed our partnership with your vibrant nation through the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative,” he added. “We also work together to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases.
“As you celebrate another year of independence, know that the people of the United States wish you a joyful day and a strengthening of the friendship between our countries,” Kerry continued.
While noting that St. Vincent and the Grenadines has achieved a “tremendous milestone” during its 36th anniversary of political independence, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves said the multi-island state, in the process and through the course of its history, has been “beset by a multiplicity of challenges.”
In his Independence Message, read Sunday by UN Ambassador I. Rhonda King, at a gala Independence Luncheon at Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn, Gonsalves said these challenges run the gamut – “from the never-ceasing onslaught waged by the forces of neo-imperialism and the constant threat they pose to our culture and way-of-life, to the effects of climate change and the resulting unprecedented, catastrophic weather events of recent times.
“My purpose in outlining several of the difficulties, which we have faced over the period of our history, is not to convey a sense of fear and pessimism,” he said.
“I wish only to point to the obstacles that we have overcome and to accentuate the point that the same strength and grace that have brought us to victory time and again in the past continue to sustain us in the present, and will guarantee our continued triumph in the future, always with the grace of Almighty God,” he added.
The Vincentian prime minister said it is “proven yet again in the fact that, like every other country in the world, our vulnerable Small Island Developing State has witnessed and experienced the effects of the ongoing economic recession.”
But amid this, he said “we have brought the biggest infrastructural project in our history virtually to completion,” stating that the Argyle International Airport is scheduled to become operational “in a matter of a few months.
“Not only will it ease the burden of travel for Vincentians and visitors alike, it will also facilitate our greater participation in regional and international trade, bringing direct benefits to persons involved in sectors such as agriculture and industry,” Gonsalves said.
He said in all that his administration does, the people remain at the “centre of our vision,” adding that the government remains “committed to providing quality health care and education for all Vincentians.”
In addition, he said the Unity Labor Party (ULP) administration continues to make “substantial investments in the social safety nets designed to meet the needs of our poor, elderly and disabled while respecting their individuality and dignity.
“We continue to create, source and otherwise provide opportunities that will enable all to achieve their potential, and, in so doing, participate fully and excel in their chosen fields of endeavor,” Gonsalves said.
He said the young people also continue to make the nation “proud with their achievements in academics, sports, culture and a vast number of other areas.
“I feel fully justified in the pride I take in their accomplishments,” Gonsalves said. “They can stand and compete with the crème de la crème anywhere in the world.
I have every confidence that they will be able to add substantially to the narrative of this country’s development.”
New York Counsel General Selmon Walters, a former government minister, told the 400-plus patrons that he was “very harkened by the energy of the people from the Vincentian Diaspora in the United States,” adding that “it just shows that the Vincentian Diaspora is alive and well.”
He also urged nationals to “try to support your own people in all their businesses.”
United States Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, told the grand ceremony that “St. Vincent and the Grenadines is uniquely positioned to benefit” from President Obama’s “genuine partnership with CARICOM (the Caribbean Community).
“As a member of the Energy Committee [in the U.S. House of Representatives], I will continue to work for the allocation of resources [for Caribbean states],” said Clarke.