Message from Her Excellency Sylvanie Burton, DAH President of the Commonwealth of Dominica on the Occasion of the 45th anniversary of Dominica's Independence on 3rd November 2023.
My fellow citizens, residents and visitors to our Isle of Beauty and Grandeur,
It is with an extraordinary sense of pride, honour, joy and optimism that I address a message to you for the very first time, in my capacity as the first female President of the Commonwealth of Dominica of indigenous descent, on the memorable occasion of the observance of the 45th Anniversary of our Independence. On behalf of my husband and family, I have the profound pleasure to extend my heartfelt congratulations on the occasion of our National Day and best wishes of peace, happiness and prosperity.
There is no refuting that our journey to development for the past forty-five (45) years was not always without stumbling blocks. We have had to face up to, and deal with the devastating impact of several natural disasters coupled with new challenges that arose, particularly the ongoing consequences of COVID-19, crime and violence, terrorism, climate change, energy and food security, non-communicable diseases, the Russia-Ukraine war and most recently, the Israel/Hamas war that no one saw coming, which will undoubtedly exacerbate the challenges of the Russia-Ukraine war that negatively impacted the cost of fuel, electricity and transportation, and the cost of goods and services worldwide.
The words of a poem penned by Abimbola T. Alabi recapitulate nicely our courageous thoughts and determination as we navigate through the many struggles, challenges and uncertainties as a people and nation:
"Vagaries of this life can be
Tough and hard to fathom,
And yet have they conquered me?
Look how far I've come.
As I climb up its hill,
Slopes and jagged edges and all,
There are times I slip but still
At no time did I fall.
As I tread along its way
Sometimes I run into bends,
Stumbling blocks on some days
But never into dead ends.
As I sprint down its lane,
Hurdles seem to abound,
Yet the tripping now and again
Still can't bring me down.
Whims of life that lie in wait
Though I may not have a clue,
Firm is my will, strong is my faith.
My God will see me through."
And the faithful God that we serve certainly saw and continue to see us through the difficult times. With this unfailing divine support coupled with our determination, we have been able to ride out the devastating impacts of the weather related crises and external shocks and our young nation as a result, has made great strides in the areas of housing, health, education, digital technology, agriculture, infrastructural development and tourism, etc. We have done well in light of the circumstances and should all be proud of the progress we have made throughout the past 45 years.
This year's observance of Independence is celebrated under the theme "Annou Sélébwé – Let Us Celebrate." This simple yet very profound theme to my mind, is very fitting and timely in light of the many successes that have accompanied our efforts and sacrifices throughout the past 45 years, amidst all the many challenges and uncertainties. So yes, there is certainly cause for celebration at this juncture. Let us therefore as proud citizens of Dominica, both here and abroad, celebrate first and foremost the goodness of God Almighty, our freedom, our unique and rich cultural heritage, our democracy, our values and ideals, our achievements and our resilience, on this memorable occasion of the attainment of 45 years of nationhood.
I wish to take this opportunity to reiterate the resolve and commitment pronounced by me in my Inaugural Speech on October 2nd, to serve all of the people of Dominica at home and abroad; to focus on the burning issues of the day such as global warming and climate change, deforestation and environmental degradation, global economic instability, challenges to the rule of law, the rise of artificial intelligence and a deepening divide of our people; and to use the prestige of my high office to advocate on behalf of our vulnerable citizens.
Most pressing at this stage is the increasing concern about our young men. Report from the Police Department shows that thus far in 2023, fourteen (14) young persons have lost their lives due to homicides. From among fourteen (14) victims, thirteen (13) were male. This alarming rate of homicides that occur among our young men is cause for pause. We, meaning the homes, the schools, the churches, non-governmental organizations and the business community, should join forces with the Government to help save our young men and families by extension. The Office of the President and the President's Charities Foundation intend to work in close collaboration with all the relevant stakeholders to formulate and implement strategies and approaches geared at challenging our young men to put their energies into productive use and to realize their true purpose and fullest potential that God Almighty has ordained for their lives.
My dear brothers and sisters, the world is a very troubled place and the new challenges that constantly surface, is a clear indication that the road ahead will be tougher to traverse. What then do we do? Get disheartened and call it quit? Definitely not! We have gone too far and done too well to turn back now. Going forward, the best approach is for each one of us to focus on what unites us rather than on what divides us, to work harder and smarter, to act more responsibly and to be more innovative. Additionally, we are to remain hopeful in God's promise and be driven by the windows of opportunities to be derived from such initiatives as the digital economy, green energy which is positioned on the development of our geothermal resources, the construction of major international hotels and an international airport that are all geared at realizing the greatest transformation in our economic growth and development. The onus is on all of us to remain focused as we continue to work together to achieve our set goal which is, the emergence of a modern, resilient and sustainable Dominica. We can do it as a collective.
We extend a very warm welcome to the many visitors from the region and further afield, particularly our brothers and sisters living in the Diaspora, who are visiting with friends and relatives. You are in the right destination at this time of year. We invite you to celebrate with us and enjoy all the unique attractions that we have to offer – our natural beauty, our cultural heritage, our local cuisine, our music, and our warmth and hospitality. We have no doubt that your stay in the Nature Isle will be an enthralling and memorable experience.
I encourage every citizen and resident to plant as many trees as you can, on Community Day of Service and beyond. Let us all play our part to ensure that our Nature Isle remains pristine and green for our future generations.
We are still in the hurricane season. We thank our Heavenly Father for sparing us from the impact of Hurricane Tammy and pray that He will keep His eye upon us and protect us from all future natural disasters, from harm and danger of all kinds.
May the Good Lord bless and favor us with an enjoyable, memorable and peaceful 45th Anniversary of Independence.
"Annou Sélébwé – Let Us Celebrate" with one heart, mind and voice and make "Alleluia" our song!
I thank you.