The Parish of St. Ann is a microcosm of Jamaica: all the major industries of the island are fully operational here; Jamaica’s history and culture are deeply engrained here; our people “Out of many one” are all evident here. St. Ann can be classified as a parish of firsts.
To refresh your memory, I’ll recite a list of firsts: this was the first landfall of Christopher Columbus when he came to Jamaica. It was the site of the first capital of Jamaica and is possibly the site of the first Taino settlement; our first National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the first black civil rights activist of the Americas, was born here in St. Ann; the first mega-star of Jamaica, Bob Marley, was also born here. I could go on, but I think the point is sufficiently clear: that is, that you have a rich heritage of which you can be justifiably proud, and many of these things put you at the head of the class of fourteen.
The picturesque view that one experiences flying over this parish affirms the title “garden parish” of Jamaica:
- The rich soil nurtures the Fern Gully, the verdant landscapes, vibrant gardens and the many thriving farms across the parish.
- St. Ann also reflects the bounties of Jamaica’s natural resources.
- The island’s thriving tourism industry boasts St. Ann’s world famous beauty of sun, sea and sand and its spectacular attractions, such as the Dunn’s River Falls.
- The bauxite and alumina industry which is so important in Jamaica’s economic life, has substantial operations in this parish.
- The manufacturing and commercial sectors, though not as strong as the traditional players in the parish economy, continue to play an important role, grasping opportunities for growth even despite the many challenges in the national and global economy.
While I speak of industries and sectors of the economy, the underlying fact is that it is the people whose creative energy, whose drive to succeed, whose knowledge, skills and commitment have combined to make this wonderful parish that it is today. I certainly can say that I believe in the people of St. Ann because:
§ You know how to work diligently and creatively.
§ You know the value of community service and volunteerism.
§ You know the importance of caring for our children, the aged, the disabled and other vulnerable members of our society.
I believe that all of you who are sharing in this moment with me today are as convinced as Lady Allen and I are that “There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica”. What we need is for each of us to determine that we will be a channel of peace, a vehicle for positive change, a transmitter of positive messages for the good of our homeland. Wherever we are, we must make a vital contribution to the building of Jamaica which will be a “Place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business”, by 2030.
We are all aware of the areas in which we are gifted in one way or another to contribute, but each one of us has the crying need to stand guard in protection of our children. During May, Child’s Month, the harsh spotlight on the serious and widespread cases of child abuse in our island shocked many of us who had been unaware of the statistics; shamed others who might have ignored signs of abuse and, most importantly, served as a catalyst to yet others to volunteer time and resources to help protect our children and defeat this threat to our nation’s future.
We need to have more people committed to stamping out child abuse. Each of us has a responsibility in this. It is not enough to thank God that it does not exist in our family, if, happily, that is the case. It is incorrect to believe, as many do, that child abuse is relegated to certain sections of society. Statistics prove otherwise. My appeal to you therefore, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that you collaborate in taking action at all the levels necessary to rid this beautiful parish of the scourge of child abuse. We must tackle child abuse wherever it exists across Jamaica.
As I tour this beloved island of ours during this 50th year of our statehood, I do not overlook the many difficulties which our people face. I have seen the face of poverty and desperation, but often, even in deprived communities, I have seen the hope and determination of parents, sometimes single mothers who are determined to secure a better life for their children through moral grounding and education.
Our history is replete with stories of parents who have sacrificed to that end, as it is of individuals, also companies and charitable organizations that have given financial support and served as mentors, thus making a positive difference in the lives of our young people. The I Believe Initiative recognizes this and my hope is that it will motivate Jamaicans from all walks of life to invest in our youth, and are our future.
We celebrate our Golden Jubilee at a time of significant economic challenge both locally and internationally. It is time to demand the best from each of us to secure a better future for our children, families, communities and nation. As a small country, we are endowed with many talented people, not only in sports but in many other areas. Jamaicans have made their mark in many fields. We are “little, but we tallawah”. We must use our many gifts to the best advantage of our nation.
Lady Allen and I enjoy visiting St. Ann. As you might know, the parish has great significance for us, so it has a special place in our hearts. Again thank you all for the warmth with which you have received us, your hospitality and your commitment to the sustainable development of the parish and by extension the development of Jamaica.
May God bless you all!