Thursday, November 23, 2017
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New CCM leader acceptance speech



Mark-Brantley-speechLadies and gentlemen my name is Mark Brantley and I rise on this the 29th day of the month of October in the year of our Lord 2017 to use the currency of my words. It is a Sunday, a day that the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

I have made many speeches in my life but none as important or as humbling as this one. I start by paying homage to the Right Honourable Sir Simeon Daniel, National Hero, who molded and mentored me during his lifetime and who even in death continues to inspire me. 

I have always said that if in this path of public service, I can achieve for Nevis one quarter of what Sir Simeon achieved, then I would have served magnificently. It remains for me a matter of great humility that in my first ever election of 2007, Sir Simeon, the Founder of the NRP, publicly endorsed me, the candidate for the CCM. 

His life of service from the humble circumstances of his birth in Barnes Ghaut to the towering heights of power in Nevis and the wider St. Kitts and Nevis should provide a roadmap for us all. His life proves for us all that we are never limited by the station or circumstances of our birth. 

We are only limited by the extent of our ambitions and our willingness to work hard. I thank Sir Simeon for letting his light so shine that Nevisians like me can stand here today at this place and at this time in our island’s history.

It was some 11 years ago that a gentleman and his lovely wife graced my home with their presence. There in Montpelier that gentleman encouraged me to enter politics to better serve the people of Nevis. 

He spoke of leadership, of transition, of succession, of public service. My wife Sharon was opposed. She wanted none of the public scrutiny and constant demands that politics brings. I was ambivalent. At the time I was a mere 36 years old with 2 young children and a busy law practice. 

I was making my mark as a lawyer undertaking work globally. The gentleman in his own inimitable style quietly encouraged me and his wife I recall told my wife that the role would not be easy, but a life of public service would be worth it.

I was noncommittal, but Sharon and I prayed about it. I then consulted my closest advisors, Irving Brantley of blessed memory and Cynthia Vicky Williams also of blessed memory. 

These, my parents, had up to then been the pillars on which my life had been constructed. My father in his own style always encouraged me to make my own decisions as I was the one who would have to live with them. 

My mother, a devoted Jehovah’s Witness told me to serve Jehovah God rather than man. I spoke to Sir Simeon who told me that Nevis had from time to time raised up sons and daughters marked for service of others and that I was such a son of Nevis. I consulted my friend Webbo Herbert who told me “only the best will do”.

My wife and I prayed some more about this proposed leap into the unknown. Should I continue to seek the financial success and reward that my legal career afforded or should I seek to serve Nevis in a more substantive fashion?

You see, I was born into abject poverty in a place called Scarborough in Hanley’s Road. I was the 2nd child of an unmarried union. I have seen and experienced firsthand the cruelty of poverty. 

I walked with the people of Hanley’s Road two miles to Market Shop and back at the crack of dawn to fetch water to bathe for school and then back again to attend Chapel School and later the Gingerland Primary School, now the Joycelyn Liburd Primary School. 

I ate corn porridge which we called corn pap for breakfast. My mother Vicky, my uncle Jolly, my three sisters and I had to suffice often with a single tin of Vienna sausage for our meal. To this day I know a tin has 7 small sausages because the 6 of us would get 1 each and the children would fight each other for a piece of the last one. We had electricity because my Godfather Spencer Evelyn of blessed memory spirited a meter out of the Electricity Department where he worked and allowed my family to join the ranks of the electrified. 

We had an old pit latrine and a galvanized shed where we bathed with a bucket. Indeed, I thank my mother Vicky posthumously for rescuing me from certain death when once intoxicated on Sanotogen wine I stole from under her bed, I almost fell into the murky darkness of that latrine.

I reflected that from those humble beginnings God had so abundantly blessed me that I was being asked to enter politics to better serve the people of Nevis. And how did I get to that point? I got there because many including some seated here today took the time to help me. I remember my early teachers who shaped and molded me. My mother Vicky who taught me to read before I was 3. 

My beloved Teacher Joyce Liburd, Teacher Marian and Teacher Charmaine. I remember after my family moved to Brown Hill when I was 9 years old, that persons such as Principal Ivor Walters of blessed memory, Teacher Williams now of Teach Tours and my beloved Teacher Elmo actively looked out for and encouraged me at the then Prospect School now the Ivor Walters Primary School. 

When I went to High School, our neighbours Christine Springette and Elmo and Vera Liburd often offered a lift to town to ease my tired feet from walking miles to and from the Charlestown Secondary School in hot morning sun and frequent afternoon rain. 

You see then there were no school buses offering free transport nor was there money to pay a bus. I got a dollar and twenty-five cents to buy a half bread with cheese, sausage or luncheon meat and a drink at MS Howells shop and that was my daily allocation from my mother’s meagre resources. 

In High School and later at Sixth Form committed teachers such as Jennifer Hodge, Judith Gumbs now Slack, Studdert Daniel, Steven Webbe, Drake Ward, Pearlivan Wilkin, Vertilie Powell of blessed memory, Telbert Glasgow, Michael Dore, Floretta Hobson all took a special interest in me and my well-being. 

Social Security offered me a scholarship which helped me through High School and later Sixth Form. I would like to use this platform today to publicly thank them for investing in me. I remain exceedingly proud that I was the first ever Social Security Scholar.

Thereafter, I went to New York where I worked at night and by day studied Criminal Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice until the then Premier Simeon Daniel insisted that I return home and take up a government scholarship to read law at the University of the West Indies as a reward for being the top performer in Nevis at A levels. 

From UWI, I transitioned to the Norman Manley Law School. On the strength of my performance there, I was again helped, this time by strangers, and awarded the Winter Williams Commonwealth Scholarship to attend Oxford University and read for my post graduate degree in law. 

The Winter Williams Commonwealth Scholarship is offered to one student in the entire Commonwealth each year. When one considers that the Commonwealth has a population of 2.4 billion and a youth population of 1.44 billion it is remarkable that a poor boy from the tiny island of Nevis could have received such a scholarship. 

When I finished Oxford I was offered jobs in New York and in London, my most lucrative offer being from a large law firm in New York called O’Sullivan & Cromwell. I was offered a full scholarship to do my PHD and a teaching position at Michigan Law School in the United States. I spurned all offers preferring to come home to my beloved Nevis.

I say all this to say that I stand proudly here today as a living testament to how lives can be transformed and young people empowered through the help of others who dared to care. My political opponents have labeled me a “Welfare Child” for the path that life has made possible for me. 

I declare today that I am not ashamed that I obtained the welfare of others. Having obtained the help of others and having recognized how such help has molded me, I am honored to now be able to reciprocate that help to my fellow Nevisians. 

You see in this life it is never where you have come from but where you are headed that counts. My own life experiences have confirmed for me that our people need and demand not a hand out but a hand up.

And so, with prayer and reflection, it came to me that it was my duty, indeed the duty of us all, to give back to this the land we love, all that we are capable of giving. I decided to join that honorable gentleman who with his wife visited my home 11 years ago. 

That gentleman was the Honourable Vance Winkworth Amory and the organization he successfully asked me to join was this great Party the Concerned Citizens Movement. I say today to those here assembled and to the world that modern Nevis has never before seen the quality of leadership demonstrated by Vance Amory. 

In him God so combined the elements of intellect, grace and humility that Nevis and all Nevisians can truly say that he was and continues to be a special leader who has spent a lifetime in the service of his people. 

I have been privileged these past 11 years to work with him in Opposition and in Government. I have watched and I have learnt much. His leadership has been defined by his quiet strength and character.

And today we see that humility and character on full display for the world to see. I wish you here assembled to recognize that you are witnessing history of a rare kind. You are witnessing a leader in government at the very height of his power both locally and federally stepping aside to allow another a chance to lead. Vance was not asked to leave. Vance is not tired and out of ideas. 

Vance is not sick and infirm. Vance remains one of the regions most loved and most popular leaders. No my friends, Vance Amory is leaving the leadership of the CCM because he understands that organizations must constantly be allowed to renew and to grow. In so doing, this giant Vance Amory has few parallels in the region and the world. 

The great Nelson Mandela handed over the ANC and the leadership of South Africa to Thabo Mbeke. The great PJ Patterson passed the baton to Sister Portia Simpson. I can think of no other incumbent passing the baton of his own voluntary will. 

Indeed, some including in our own island and country seem to wish to hold on to power whatever the cost and no matter their age and stage. Vance Amory today sends a clear message to the world that the Concerned Citizens Movement believes in proper planning, proper succession and constant renewal. 

That is why today we see not just the emergence of a new Leader but also the installation of a brand-new candidate in Eric Evelyn, the Mayor of Hanley’s Road.

Today my friends we see the great Moses passing the baton to Joshua. In the most celebrated transition, the Bible speaks to how God raises up leaders from amongst us. He the all-powerful raises up leaders and chooses sometimes the most unlikely persons to fulfill his purpose. 

He chose Moses to lead his people from bondage in Egypt. He chose Moses to deliver His ten commandments to his people. But when the time came and in accordance with His divine plan, he selected Joshua to lead his people to the Promised Land. What you are witnessing today is a manifestation of Gods divine plan raising up leaders at different times and for different purposes.

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you all to stand with me and applaud our stalwart, the founder of this great Party, the man who has led it successfully for nigh 30 years, our Moses. Please stand and help me salute the Honourable Vance Winkworth Amory.

Allow me a moment at this point to thank my wife of 23 years Sharon Brantley and my two daughters Brianna and Gabriella. They have borne the brunt of my long absences from home and the constant demands on my time that public life entails. 

They have seen the constant attacks from the nattering nabobs of negativity on social media and in some segments of the print media. My wife herself has been personally attacked. 

My children have suffered taunts at school. But throughout they have stood with me soothing me in my darkest hours, encouraging me when I am down. They have stood full square with me and for their love I am eternally grateful. 

My deep regret is that both my father Irving and my mother Vicki have gone to the great beyond. It is my hope that I make them proud and that through public service I can be an instrument of God in the service of mankind so that my mother will not be upset that I did not heed her advice.

And so today here I stand praying as my introductory song said that goodness and mercy shall follow all of us and our beautiful island all the days of our lives. 

It will be now for me as your new leader to help shape the future for us all. As our Convention theme says today I pledge to you all that we in this great CCM Party will be “Forging Ahead With Renewed Commitment”. 

As your new leader I am old enough to know and young enough to do. Those who aspire to lead must first follow. I have followed faithfully and I have learnt at the feet of the best. It is now up to me to move this great Party forward.

To do so we must get our people motivated and invested in the progress of our island and country. We must engage our youths as they are not only our future but our present. We must empower our youths, our women and our girls and provide every opportunity for them in education, in business and in politics. 

We must foster a culture of entrepreneurship and independence in our people. We must care for our elderly, our sick and our infirm. Our citizens with disabilities must be included and our safety net must extend to all. 

Our thrust for renewable energy must continue and bear fruit for the sake of our island and our planet. We must continue to invest heavily in our healthcare sector and in education. We must insist that Nevis be able to feed itself and our farmers and fishers must continue to be empowered to produce our food that sustains us. 

We must promote patriotism and love of country. No more should anyone sit when our National Anthem plays. No more should we litter and destroy our natural environment. Our civil service cries out for reform and reform it we must. 

Our public servants must understand that they serve not themselves but the Nevisian people. We must confront crime and criminality in high and low places with all our might. 

Our leaders and would be leaders must have the appropriate checks and balances and we must operationalize our Integrity in Public Life legislation. 

Our Parliament must meet on a fixed day at least every 2 months outside the Budget period. We must continue to promote and develop our tourism industry. Our arts and culture must continue to receive priority as they define us as a proud people. We must continue to forge a close working relationship with our brothers and sisters in St. Kitts. Nevisians are at last taking their rightful place in this their Nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. There is no time now for backward movement. 

We must remain united and strong and insist on a fair share for all Kittitians and Nevisians. Those who are here from Guyana and Jamaica and Dominican Republic and USA and Dominica and elsewhere must continue to feel welcome. 

The dark days of kicking down your doors at foreday mornings to deport you and your families are long over. No foreigner now will have to take a photo of their ballot to prove how they voted to get a work permit. 

This CCM Party will be guided by the directive of Holy Writ set out at Exodus 22 and verse 21 “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger nor oppress him for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt”. Our clearly stated position of putting our people first and giving them opportunities to help build Nevis must continue. 

Our People must feel each and every day that under the leadership of this great CCM Party they continue to matter most. Above all we must engage our Churches and ask their spiritual intervention for our island. Our people must once again be encouraged to turn to God in whom all hope resides.

But to achieve all this we must be united and we must be strong. I have said before and I say here today again that only the CCM can defeat the CCM. Some of us have allowed ourselves to become trapped in that horrible disease of measuring ourselves against others, of watching what others are getting or not getting, of wanting all for ourselves. 

Many of us feel that the role of politics is to enrich supporters rather than to build the country. Many argue not that they have not received benefits but that they have not received enough. 

Some are engaged fully in the private sector but have criticized the CCM government to say that they have not cashed a government cheque. Some have engaged in open attacks on their own CCM Ministers and Cabinet members and have supported the plans of the enemy by gossip and innuendo whilst still proclaiming that they are CCM. 

This has to stop. Some of you have said to me when your latest demand could not be satisfied that you prefer the way NRP looked after its supporters when it held office. My response then and now remains: Where is NRP today?

Friends I say to you today that this CCM will continue to govern for all the people of Nevis. In any democracy we will not always agree. Some of you here once supported the NRP. Some who are not here and even today attack the CCM vociferously were once loud supporters of the CCM. 

Many have turned from the CCM when the Government could not satisfy their constant demands. Some have come for a reason and others have come for a season. I want to continue the legacy of Vance Amory by building a Nevis for all. I welcome all who are here and who are listening and viewing today. 

CCM is a big tent and we welcome one and all to join us. For those who were here and have lost their way, I say in the famous words of Edward Seaga of Jamaica that you should “light a candle, sing a Sankey and find your way back home”. Come back home to CCM the Party that has shown and continues to show great progress for the people of Nevis.

Moses has today passed the baton of leadership to Joshua. I intend to lead with humility and to seek Gods face and his guidance. In my prayers I will not ask for riches or for power or even for long life. Nay, I shall like King Solomon of old ask for wisdom. From Moses to Joshua, Nevis is getting ever stronger.

My friends, leadership at a time like this will not be easy. Even now the enemies of this great Party and of Nevis are massed at the gates howling into the wind. Theirs is a message of hate. As your new Leader I offer you a message of hope. A message which seeks to encourage the best in us rather than pander to the worst in us. 

The Nevisian people have shown from the harsh crucible of slavery until now a tenacity and strength of character which has allowed us to rise even in the most difficult circumstances. 

We are in every sense Gods own people blessed beyond measure with a land of unparalleled beauty and a people of unparalleled strength, vision and commitment. Let us therefore encourage our strengths not our weaknesses. 

Let us excite our hopes and not our fears. Today we mark an historic day, a day when we say to the world that Nevis can and will become the shining beacon on the hill for all that is good and great about this our Caribbean.

Let us therefore leave this Convention and prepare ourselves for the elections. When the call comes (and it shall come soon) we want you to be ready. The big blue bell is already at Long Point in Customs. 

It will now be cleared and placed in the hands of our beloved Premier. When you hear ting a ling a ling it will be time to go. So please ensure you have your Voters ID. Please ensure that your children and neighbours are registered to vote. 

Above all else please help us spread the message of CCM, a message of love and of hope throughout the length and breadth of this land we love; this land we call Nevis.

But my friends on this journey I cannot do it alone. We need you to be with us and we need a strong and united team working together in your best interest. I believe today that I can truly say that your CCM party has assembled the most formidable team of candidates ever assembled in Nevis.

I ask the CCM candidates for the next Nevis Island Assembly Elections to join me on stage. In the great Parish of St Thomas, we have the great cultural icon Keith Scarborough, MBE. In the great Parish of St Paul’s, we have the brand-new brand name committed servant of the people Spencer Brand. 

In the great parish of St. George’s, we have the newcomer the man known as the Mayor of Hanley’s Road, Eric Evelyn. In St. James we have the man dubbed the hardest working Minister Alexis Jeffers; and in St Johns I am pleased to offer myself once more as your representative and your next Premier. My friends, from Moses to Joshua, Nevis is getting ever stronger. Please stand with me and applaud your team, your next government, your CCM Party.

May God continue to bless you.

Thank you.

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