This evening I take great pleasure in welcoming all of you to King’s House on this very special occasion, in honour of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales. In Jamaica most persons know him as Prince Harry but I can assure you that he is one and the same person.
We are really quite appreciative of the fact that Her Majesty The Queen, on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee has chosen to make her presence felt in the Realm with Jamaica being one of the ports of call by one of whom we can say he is Prince of Jamaica.
Your Royal Highness, we are so pleased to have you here and Lady Allen and I are delighted to host you at King’s House. It is our hope that you will take back with you cherished memories of the legendary warmth and hospitality of the Jamaican people.
We join other countries of the Realm in celebrating and saluting Her Majesty for an illustrious reign that has been marked by peace and has fostered goodwill among nations and peoples. We are further heartened that Her Majesty has seen it fit to continue the tradition of visiting or sending members of the Royal family to the Realm territories during her significant celebrations, including the Golden Jubilee in 2002. It will therefore be our pleasure to be represented at Her Majesty’s Jubilee celebrations in London later this year.
Your Royal Highness,
Permit me to share a little of the relationship between Jamaica and the British Royal Family over the years, that has affirmed our view that Jamaica has a special place in their hearts, as they do in ours. I refer in this instance to a consistent pattern of Royal visits during the celebration of milestones in the history of our Island State.
In reflecting on the early years before Jamaica gained Independence in 1962, we recall with pride that it was the late Princess Alice, the first Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, who established the Chapel at the then University College. The building which was a defunct sugar factory in Trelawny was relocated stone by stone to its present location at Mona at the request of Princess Alice. She served as Chancellor from 1948 until 1971.
Since Independence, Jamaica has had the further honour of having Her Majesty preside over the Opening of Parliament on two occasions, in addition to her previous visits. In recent years, the Prince of Wales Trust, under the Patronage of your father – the Prince of Wales, has paid special attention to Jamaica through funding of the Rose Town Regeneration Programme. Prince Charles has made several visits to further the work of this charity, the initiatives of which have targetedurban renewal; improvement of local governance; skills training, entrepreneurship and job creation, among others.
On a visit to Jamaica last year in her role as President of the Caribbean Canada Emerging Leaders Dialogue, the Princess Royal presented awards to Gold Medal winners of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Jamaica is proud of its involvement in this programme and welcomes the opportunity young people have for personal growth.
The fraternal relationship between Jamaica and the UK has been a beneficial partnership and we have every confidence that this will continue. Mutual respect and an appreciation of our respective contribution to each other’s advancement, has been the hallmark of our diplomatic relations. Your Royal Highness, given your military background, you undoubtedly have a great appreciation of the historical significance of the British Armed Forces and the crucial role Jamaicans have played in that institution. Well before the creation of a Diaspora community in Britain and before the Windrush Years of the 1950s, over 10, 000 Jamaican patriots between the ages of 19 and 25 served as volunteers in the Great War of 1914-1918.
Jamaicans from all walks of life again enlisted for service in the military, Air Force and the Navy in World War Two, with a number of them working in ammunitions, factories and timber yards. In fact, Jamaica was the first British colony to respond to the call of the late Sir Winston Churchill for members of the Empire to fight for the “Mother Country”. At the initiative of Alec Gordon of Ocho Rios, the Battle for Britain Trust was established in Jamaica and spread to other parts of the Empire.
That relationship continued after the war, when Britain experienced a shortage of labour and needed help to re-build its infrastructure. Again Jamaicans answered the call and rose to the challenge with some 492 persons journeying in 1948, on the SS Empire Windrush, to London. As the population grew in the 1950s and 1960s, thousands of our nationals played a vital role in the development of the steel industry as well as the transportation and health sectors and later in the field of education, developing strategies aimed at raising the aspirations of youth in predominantly inner city schools, and sharing teaching methodologies.
With respect to culture, the Jamaican Community has made its own unique contribution to British society with its own brand of music, exotic foods, vibrant dialect and religion, adding to the rich cultural diversity that Britain enjoys today.
Therefore Your Royal Highness, your visit to Jamaica has been well timed; not only as we celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty, but also as we celebrate our 50th anniversary of Independence. It is also the Olympic Year in London, where we hope to exceed our performance in Beijing. Amidst all the buzz and excitement there and in Jamaica, about our intrepid athletes, we have great expectations for the exposition of Brand Jamaica to the world. I am sure you will be there to cheer us on!
We have put together an exciting programme of activities for you. One particular highlight that I must mention is of your visit to the Usain Bolt Track, at the University of the West Indies, where you met Ambassador Bolt and engaged in what we hope was a fun experience on the track. We know that you intended to show “the big man” a thing or two, and I trust that he got the message.
Finally, Your Royal Highness, on behalf of the people of Jamaica, please convey to Her Majesty the Queen, our sincere, best wishes for her good health and wellbeing during this Jubilee Year and beyond.
Lady Allen and I wish for you a pleasant evening and an enjoyable sojourn in Jamaica.