Good evening!

Lady Allen and I are very pleased to welcome you to King’s House for the Annual Diplomatic Dinner.   For those of you who are here for the first time, we reserve a very special welcome to our island home.  We would like to express how appreciative we are that you are with us here at King’s House.

We are particularly pleased with the scheduling of the Annual Diplomatic Dinner, especially in view of our humanitarian responsibility to give some of our dear guests a justification for coming in from the frigid temperatures of North America and Europe.  Let me assure you that you are always welcome to take refuge in our tropical climes.

You will also find that the Diplomatic Corps in Jamaica is a close-knit and functional family.  Jamaica is happy with the quality and the experience of the diplomats who are assigned here.

Our Diplomatic Week therefore is a source of pride to us and I am told that other countries are also inspired to arrange similar programmes.  Prior to the inaugural staging of Diplomatic Week in 1998, the annual Dinner was the sole event on the Jamaican Diplomatic Calendar.

But the success of the annual programme of activities must be measured by the high level of support that we continue to receive. This year the Consular Corps’ Trade Expo adds another dimension to the programme of activities and permits the increased involvement of the Consular Corps, which we welcome.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

While last year was devoid of the celebratory accomplishments of 2012, there were still several memorable achievements which brought us much joy.  Jamaicans showcased their talents in several aspects of national endeavour as well as on the international stage.

Again, the world was held spellbound as our athletes delivered stunning performances at the 8th World Youth Championships in Athletics that was held in the Ukraine and the IAAF Championships held in Russia.  Our Paralympics team also continued to deliver outstanding performances and in other sporting disciplines such as boxing and swimming, our athletes continued their quest for gold.

Fittingly, Ambassador the Hon. Usain Bolt and Mrs. Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce were named “Athletes of the Year” for 2013 by the International Association of Athletics Federations.  To complete the year, Tessanne Chin gave us a very special gift at Christmas in “the Voice”, and I have it on good ground that most diplomats were unapologetically “Jamaican” at that time.

Yet, ladies and gentlemen, amid these moments of national pride, 2013 was beset by socio-economic challenges about which you have been fully briefed by the Most Honourable Prime Minister and Members of the Cabinet.

Thankfully, last year we suffered no weather-related disaster, but regrettably, our friends in the Eastern Caribbean were not so fortunate, as over the Christmas period, several days of torrential rains caused loss of life and serious damage to property.  The Governments of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Dominica are still grappling with the aftermath of the severe flooding.

Jamaica joined others in providing much needed assistance to these CARICOM States in their recovery efforts. We continue to wish for them a speedy return to normality and we want to reiterate our condolences for those who suffered bereavement and significant property loss.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Jamaica looks forward to deepening our relations with all the States represented here, as together we seek to confront numerous global challenges.  Some including climate change and safety and security, pose a real threat to our very survival.  Of course, we must also redouble our efforts aimed at promoting good governance and sustainable development for the benefit of our peoples.

During 2013, we had the pleasure of hosting several high level Guests and more than thirty bilateral delegations about whom I know our Hon. Foreign Minister would have briefed you.   I shall refer briefly to those who visited or who stayed at King’s House:

  • His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent, he came in April as Guest of the National Road Safety Council, of which I am Patron.
  • Also in May, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Hon David Onley, came to King’s House during Jamaica’s first Disability Conference at which he spoke.
  • In June we hosted the First Lady of Burkina Faso who was learning about our policies and programmes for the Rights of Women.
  • Last November I hosted a State Luncheon in honour of the President of the Republic of Haiti, His Excellency Michel Martelly, during his first State Visit to Jamaica.
  • And finally, I shall mention the visit of the Lord Prior for the Venerable Order of St. John, who, on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, conferred on me a Knighthood in that Order last September.

Since Diplomatic Week in 2013, seventeen High Commissioners and Ambassadors have joined the Diplomatic Corps in Jamaica, of whom ten are non-resident.  Our Orator has already introduced the new Heads of Mission to this distinguished gathering.  However, let me again welcome you all to the Diplomatic Corps in Jamaica and to wish for you a rewarding and successful tour of duty.  I also invite our non-resident Heads to return frequently, to follow-up on business and other opportunities.

Whenever you plan to travel outside of Kingston for business or on tourism, do not hesitate to call on our Custodes who are my representatives in each parish.  They will ensure that you have a good time.

One of the principal experiences in the life of a diplomat is constant change and the ability to adapt to change.  It is in this context that last year, we bade farewell to several very good friends who were resident Heads of Mission: the Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba- former Dean of the Diplomatic Corps; the British High Commissioner; the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China and the Ambassador of the United States of America.  I believe that Your Excellencies, the new Ambassadors and High Commissioners, like those whom you have replaced, will also endear yourselves to Jamaica and I can tell you that Jamaica will endear herself to you.

Dr. Phillips, Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Lady Allen and I are always pleased to have you and enjoy your company on these occasions. Please accept our very best wishes for the rest of the year as we continue to work for the benefit of our peoples. Enjoy the rest of the evening.

Thank you and may God continue to bless you all!