Harold Lovell, Esq.
Political Leader – United Progressive Party
Fellow Antiguans and Barbudans, Residents, and Visitors: I greet you on the occasion of the 38th anniversary of our Independence.
We are extremely proud to mark another milestone on this journey that began in the dreams of our forefathers and mothers.
The theme for this year is “Embracing Our National Pride”. The recent marches by the Faithful Nationals coalition evoked mixed emotions about this theme. On the one hand, it was wonderful to see so many proud citizens and residents of our democratic nation reaffirm their commitment to building a true nation, brave and free. And, to recall the pledge of 38 years ago for “corruption to cease [and for] nepotism [to] decrease” and to make their voices heard in peaceful protest. On the other hand, it is regrettable that as an independent nation we still have a long way to go in meeting the basic needs of our people.
This is the time of year when we seek identity in patriotic songs and in the colours of our national flag; in the national dress and in our heritage foods.
But as important and enjoyable as these may be, Independence is more about citizenship, individually and collectively. It is about what each of us contributes to nation-building and our expectations of each other as nationals, whether born or made.
When we seek to define Independence, we are called to consider the virtues of good citizenship; to look within ourselves and to ask whether we are being meaningful assets to our country.
This Independence celebration is a time for sober reflection. That night, 38 years ago, we felt we were embarking on a noble mission and that we could do anything – and be anything – and that, together, we could achieve a better life for all.
But have we?
As a Nation, we are afflicted with problems that include the upsurge of crime and violence; the breakdown of family life and the weakening of kinship bonds; widespread indiscipline and the absence of civility in ordinary relations; joblessness and the alienation of too many youth; and a sharp division in economic empowerment.
We hear of a boom in the economy, but it is unfelt and unseen by both workers and employers, especially in the private sector. Meanwhile, in the construction industry, sharpened tools and optimism have been dulled by unfulfilled promises.
… None of these problems can be solved without the full and active involvement of all citizens and residents of Antigua and Barbuda.
In the 10 years of the UPP administration, “inclusiveness” was our watchword, with themes that all began: “Antigua and Barbuda: One Family… .”
However, it is an indictment on this twin island nation that two years after Hurricane Irma our Barbudan sisters and brothers are still living in tents and made to beg for their subsistence. Is this “the just society” to which we pledged 38 years ago?
But the current notion of a “red nation” is keeping us frozen in fragmentation, where only supporters enjoy the fruits of this land, which is supposed to be enough for all to share.
I remind us all that the benefits of nationhood are not the preserve of a few, and that each citizen and resident living on the right side of the law should be able to endeavor and achieve in an Antigua & Barbuda that is fair.
As faithful nationals, we must move beyond the rhetoric of where navel strings are buried and how long ago we arrived – to that place where there is love for neighbour and pride for country. And we must do this – as I have said many times – in an environment marked by cultural diversity but with an Antigua & Barbuda identity.
Accordingly, I call on each of us to pledge to be good-good-good-good citizens from now on, and to do that which is in the best interest of Antigua and Barbuda. Remember: A nation achieves excellence when its people believe in excellence; a nation achieves greatness when its people believe in their capacity to be great.
On behalf of the United Progressive Party, I wish you all a Safe and Happy 38th Anniversary of Political Independence.