I rise to express our condolences to the Government and people of the United Kingdom whose beautiful city of Manchester was the site of a deadly and callous terrorist attack yesterday.
The attack in Manchester, which has a rich history as a music mecca, occurred near the Manchester Arena, one of the largest indoor arenas in Europe with a seating capacity of nigh 21,000.
Tragically, at least 22 persons, including children, lost their lives and around some 60 have been reported to have received injuries; most, if not all, of these persons were young people who had gone there to witness the pop star artiste Ariana Grande in concert.
As Chairman of the OECS Authority, I extend the heartfelt sympathy on behalf of the Governments and people of our sub-region to the bereaved families and friends of those persons whose demise occurred as a result of the senseless attack. We pray for all of them, as well as for those injured and their loved ones.
Intensifying the heartbreak and horror is that the audience was largely comprised of pre-teens and teenagers – some of whom were there with their families like the 13-year-old girl who went with her parents to celebrate her birthday and the nine-year-old boy who attended his very first concert last night, chaperoned by his older brother.
Last night on CNN, the older brother said that he was leading the little boy out of the venue to safety, and while he was doing that he placed his hand over his little brother’s chest – and it was beating so hard and fast. The older brother said that it was right then that he felt an urgency to get the nine-year-old out of there, because he felt so responsible for him. During the CNN interview, when he said that his younger brother was sleeping safely in bed, you could hear the palpable relief in his voice commingled with the sadness over his nine-year-old brother’s traumatic first concert.
Today, the world’s governments recognize that we must lead with a steady hand and do everything in our power to protect our citizenry; just like that young man did for his nine-year-old brother.
Moreover, today’s increasingly topsy-turvy world behooves us to establish the necessary frameworks and partnerships, in order to protect not just our own citizens and residents, but the global citizenry including the most vulnerable among us: our precious children.
As the British Prime Minister, the Honourable Theresa May, so eloquently put it “All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people, but this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.”
We join with the UK’s Prime Minister in commending the bravery of members of the emergency and security services who work tirelessly so that freedom can reign throughout the world, enabling our governments, nations and peoples to build peaceful societies for humanity and for posterity.
We also direct sentiments of thanks and praise towards the dedicated, skillful doctors, nurses and auxiliary staff who are treating the casualties and towards the good Samaritans in the crowd who helped their fellow concertgoers get to safety.
It is in these agonizing moments that we not only grasp the frailty and fragility of life, but we are also reminded of the incredible beauty and generosity of the human spirit. It is also in tragedy that we cherish the value of life and hold fast to our family and communal ties.
We in the OECS also hold firm to our resolve – as responsible and compassionate members of the international community – to stand up to evil and support our brothers and sisters at home and around the world wherever and whenever it occurs.
Today’s legislative agenda is testament to St. Kitts and Nevis’ commitment. Today, we will give support to bills related to APIS [the Advance Passenger Information System], Immigration and the Financial Services Regulatory Commission. These bills are of significance in many ways, not the least of which they demonstrate that our small country of St. Kitts and Nevis is doing what we can to help make the world a safer place.
The Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis stand with the British people during this difficult, emotional time and we pray for their healing. We pledge our unwavering support to the United Kingdom, as the international community coalesces around it to send the strong message that terror cannot and will not, and it must never prevail in our free world.