Lady Allen and I extend to you a very warm welcome to King’s House for this Annual Diplomatic Dinner, which has become the focal point of Jamaica’s Diplomatic Week.  We look forward each year to hosting our esteemed Diplomatic Corps. This evening’s activity is in tribute to your role in strengthening our collaboration for the attainment of the common objectives of sustainable development, good governance and international peace and security.

I ask my Guests to join me in a round of applause in honour of the Diplomatic Corps.

This occasion affords all of us the pleasure of greeting and conversing with non-resident Ambassadors and High Commissioners. We anticipate welcoming you more frequently to our shores especially when you need a brief reprieve from the cold temperatures of Europe and North America.

I am pleased to endorse the welcome and congratulations extended earlier to the Ambassadors and High Commissioners who were accredited since our 2014 Diplomatic Dinner.  I hope that under your stewardship, the relations between Jamaica and your respective countries will be further enhanced.  You will find that the Diplomatic Corps in Jamaica is an exceptional group who will motivate you towards a stimulating and fulfilling tour of duty.

Diplomatic week provides an opportunity for useful interaction between the Diplomatic Corps and various government ministries and agencies, members of civil society and the private sector.  It is an important ingredient in the consolidation of our bilateral relations as it offers not just high level briefings, but also time for direct meetings with programme leaders in areas of common interest.

We are assured that the friendship and cooperative relations that exist between Jamaica and the nations and international organizations represented here tonight, will be further enhanced in the years ahead. We look forward to playing our part in this evolving process and thank you, members of the Diplomatic Corps, for your own commendable contribution to this process.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Each year I share with you something of my passion for sports and tonight the feature is football.  Last year the star of the thoroughly enjoyable World Cup ascended in Brazil.  The Ambassador of Brazil must be brimming with pride and deservedly so, since his country hosted a magnificent tournament.  But bragging rights go to the Ambassador of Germany since his team took the trophy home.

Leaving the field of sports, two of Jamaica’s achievements which I shall mention in this setting are our elections to the United Nations International Civil Service Commission and to the International Court of Justice.  We believe that the calibre of our candidates facilitated our success.  Yet we know we could not have done this without the support of friendly countries.

I especially thank all of you Heads of Mission who played a part in our achievement.

Hon. Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,

Our enjoyment of the evening does not blunt the grave concern which we all share over the situations which threaten international peace, security and development.  We join in the international condemnation of the heinous crimes of terrorist organizations in the Middle East and Africa.  The murders of innocent people prompt questions as to the levels of depravity to which human beings can sink.

Even as states respond and the global community strives to adopt stronger security measures, let us not forget the urgent need to confront the battle for the minds and hearts of our youth.  The technology revolution makes it easier for the tentacles of nefarious organizations to reach them at a time when families and schools are being weakened as vehicles for the inculcation of positive values.

As we extend our deepest sympathies to those families and peoples bereaved by terrorist action, we also mourn the loss of thousands in West Africa who were victims of Ebola.  There are hopeful signs that the epidemic is abating.  Thankfully, a vaccine is being tested and we hope it will be successful so that nevermore will there be another Ebola epidemic.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is no country which is problem free, which is why international collaboration for joint solutions where possible is essential.  This year marks the end of the period envisioned for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and we already know that much remains to be achieved.

While many economies are showing signs of recovery from the global economic crisis which affected the attainment of those goals, some developed and developing countries continue to experience setbacks.  In Jamaica, we have had our own challenges, including the impact of climate change on our agricultural sector.

I do not need to restate the briefings which the Diplomatic Corps had this week from the Most Hon. Prime Minister; the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, and The Ministers of Finance and Planning, National Security, and Education.   They would have provided you with up-to-date perspectives on the policies, programmes and priorities of the Government of Jamaica, especially as they relate to the major economic and social aspects of our national development agenda.

Your Excellencies are now much more aware of our challenges and opportunities for growth as we strive to attain the goal of Vision 2030 for Jamaica to be the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.  I have every confidence in our ability to accomplish our goal.

We know that change is a constant feature of a diplomat’s life and in this regard, since the 2014 Diplomatic Dinner we bade farewell to eight resident and non-resident heads.  There is always a tinge of sadness on the departure of diplomats especially the ones you have come to know and appreciate.  However, it has been my experience that despite changes at the helm, the quality of representation is hardly ever diminished.  I ask the incoming Heads of Mission to convey our very best wishes to your predecessors.

We ourselves assigned new High Commissioners in Canada, Trinidad and Tobago and South Africa and made some changes in our network of Consuls and Honorary Consuls in 2014.  We also welcomed the appointment of Namibia’s Honorary Consul in Jamaica.  Let me add that Jamaica deeply appreciates the work and support of the Consular Corps here in Jamaica and of our own Honorary Consuls overseas.

Hon. Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,

The exchange of high-level visits reflects the maturity of our external relations and last year, we received several high level dignitaries and delegations in Jamaica.   We welcomed and strengthened bilateral relations in meetings with Prime Ministers from CARICOM states, as well as with Foreign Ministers and other High level delegations from Africa and Latin America.

Leaders of regional and international organizations also visited last year for discussions with our Government on important issues on Jamaica’s development agenda.  Other visits involved our Parliament which received counterparts from Canada and the People’s Republic of China.

Lady Allen and I were very pleased to have welcomed Their Royal Highnesses the Earl and Countess of Wessex to King’s House when they visited in March.

Last year also, we celebrated fifty years of diplomatic relations with Japan. We also marked 2014 as the Japan/CARICOM friendship year. The extensive, well-executed commemorative programme included the visit of three Japanese naval vessels to the region and an evening of delightful Japanese music which I was pleased to host in this very hall in October.

The Government and people of Jamaica deeply appreciate the invaluable assistance and the cooperative spirit in which our partners support our efforts to build our economy and improve the quality of life of our people.

We look forward to continuing the vibrant relationship between Jamaica and each of our partners as we pursue our common objectives.

Hon. Ministers, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,

Lady Allen and I are happy that so many of you found it possible to attend this annual diplomatic dinner.  It is our hope that tonight we shall even surpass the tradition of providing a memorable and satisfying experience.

Let us now continue to enjoy each other’s company and the special fare prepared in your honour.

Thank you!