Mr. President and Members of the Senate
Mr. Speaker and Members of the House
I commend the Houses of Parliament for this significant joint sitting in celebration of Jamaica’s Golden Jubilee and extend warmest greetings to you, the serving representatives of our people, as well as to those who served in Parliament in previous periods since 1962.
We are indeed pleased to welcome His Excellency Goodluck Jonathan, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to Jamaica and for his presence in this Honourable House, as we commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence.
Yesterday, we marked the 178th Anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery in Jamaica and elsewhere across the former British Empire. President Jonathan’s State Visit at this time, is not only a reaffirmation of the ancestral bonds between our peoples, but also a celebration of the journey we have taken from Emancipation to Independence and now to our 50th Anniversary as a State.
In that journey, we have had cause to prove the continuing relevance of our national symbols. The ray of hope which our Flag symbolizes, has kept us strong in the many challenges we have confronted. Our Motto calls us to unity, to rise beyond cliques and tribes, to seek peace and pursue it even in the heart of situations which would polarize us. Our Pledge reminds of our destiny as a nation “under God,” despite the problems which would threaten to derail us. Our National Anthem, described by many as among the world’s most beautiful, is a poignant reminder of our dependence on our Eternal Father for the guidance, vision and wisdom we need to build the Jamaica we desire.
Jamaica 50 is indeed a time for celebration and reflection, a time to recall the journey of our ancestors as well as their struggles and achievements on the road to independence. We continue that process of nation building which they began, building on their accomplishments with a Vision for a better, stronger and more united and prosperous Jamaica.
There is much reason to celebrate and give thanks. Despite the many areas in which we have faltered and the opportunities missed, we are a resilient and resourceful people with the capacity and determination to achieve our objectives.
In these five decades since Independence, Jamaica has experienced more development than in the entire period of its recorded history up to 1962. This was not merely a factor of our sovereign determination to grow and diversify our economy, but it was also in response to the dynamism and vicissitudes of the global political economy. Indeed, we have accomplished much, despite the setbacks occasioned by natural disasters, vulnerability to external financial and economic shocks and our domestic socio-economic challenges.
In the health sector, for example, Jamaica ranks high among developing countries in terms of health outcomes. Our life expectancy is now 72 years- at the developed country level. Our infant mortality rate has been more than halved since independence. Communicable diseases which were common in Jamaica even as we approached independence, have been successfully tackled. However, we have not been isolated from the global HIV-AIDS pandemic. Our country needs to persist in its efforts to combat this dreaded disease and afford a better quality of life to its victims. Similarly, our people ought to commit to healthy lifestyles to reduce the worrisome incidence of life-style diseases.
We have scored noteworthy achievements also in education. For the majority of Jamaicans, secondary and tertiary education is a post-independence phenomenon. Cutting-edge technology is enhancing the teaching and learning experiences and our young people are making their mark on national and international levels, in the field of information and communications technology.
Likewise, our country has made significant advances in industry and commerce since independence. We have developed world-class products and services, marketed exclusive brands and made innovations in tourism and other sectors. In terms of culture, Jamaica is a superpower. And there is no denying the excellence of our athletes who will again bring glory to our homeland in these London Olympics.
There is equally no denying that we are not where we would have wanted to be in our development as a nation. Crime and insecurity remain a grave challenge and there are serious social ills which demand our united action, if we are to combat them successfully.
We are indeed “a nation on a mission”. As Jamaica stands on the threshold of the next half century, we contemplate the legacy we shall leave for future generations. Let us use the attainment of the objectives of Vision 2030 as our next milestone as we journey together. Every citizen of our country has a role to play if Jamaica is to experience the desired transformation.
Positive values and attitudes have to become part of our psyche. Let us emancipate ourselves from the culture of negativity which threatens to stagnate us and the paralysis of analysis which would dampen our creativity. Believing in ourselves and our God-given potential is important to our progress, if not to our very survival.
I believe we can achieve our Vision of a Jamaica as the Place of Choice to Live, Work, Raise Families and Do Business by 2030. I believe that there is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what’s right with Jamaica. We are a people with boundless creativity. We must use the lessons of the past to fashion the victories of the future. The success of our national plans will require the partnership of all sectors of our society, a belief in our potential and confidence that together we can achieve.
Members of the Honourable Houses of Parliament
Kindly allow me to use this opportunity therefore to call on all Jamaicans to unite and lend your hand in building our nation. Our Jubilee is a “Carpe Diem” moment. We must cease the day because our progress, if not our very stability, demands that we forge a civil, kind and gracious society in which the family is strong; where our children are safe and protected; where our youth are educated and empowered; where integrity is our watchword and where volunteerism and team spirit become contagious.
Our Jubilee Legacy ought to be a culture of success, of striving for excellence. The wisdom of National Hero, the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, is particularly relevant in this context. He said and I quote: “There is no force like success and that is why the individual makes all effort to surround himself throughout life with the evidence of it. As of the individual, so should it be of the nation”.
Members of the Houses of Parliament
I thank you.