Good afternoon,

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for joining Lady Allen and me for today’s luncheon. We appreciate this opportunity to show our appreciation for the work that you are doing in your respective parishes and for the impact it is having on nation building.  

I extend a warm welcome to our new Custodes to this function: 

· The Hon. Jeffrey McKenzie, Custos of St. Catherine  

· The Hon. Errol Johnson, Custos of St. Mary

· Lieutenant Commander (Ret’d) John McFarlane, Acting Custos of St. Andrew,  and

· All the spouses who so graciously join us today.

I hope you enjoyed your session with Lady Allen on the trip and the tour.

As Custodes you are entrusted with the legacy of being the first citizen of the parish in your role as representative of the Governor-General. Each parish has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities for which there is no quick fix. This means that each of you will have to use your ingenuity, your relational skills and your visionary leadership to effect real change and inspire citizens, especially our young people.

There are privileges, not just work, that come with the office.  It is the government’s way of saying thanks for your service and the enormous responsibilities which are entrusted to you. As we welcome you, our newly appointed Custodes, we also express sincere gratitude to those who have moved on.  

Today, we formally say farewell to the Hon. Mrs. Donna Parchment Brown who has been appointed to serve our country as Political Ombudsman. Custos Parchment Brown, you’ve had an illustrious legal career. You are well known for her extensive work as a mediation specialist which prepared you for wider service as Custos Rotulorum for the parish of St. Andrew and now to the entire nation as Political Ombudsman. Lady Allen and I appreciate the support that you have given us as well as your commitment to the programmes here at King’s House. We wish you every success in your new role.

Regrettably, ladies and gentlemen, time did not allow us to collectively say farewell to the Hon. Jeffrey McKitty, former Custos of St. Mary, who passed away last year after a period of illness. He was a true Jamaican patriot who spent many years serving his country and serving the parish of St. Mary. He was renowned for helping to cement Jamaica’s position in the global tourism marketplace, Custos McKitty knew very well that without the right moral and social foundations, economic development could not take root and become sustainable in Jamaica.  Hence, his unfailing work with and support for the young people, not only in St. Mary but right across the island. He was very passionate about youth development and used his mentoring programme to encourage young people to realize their potential. I think it is in order for us to have a moment of silence in honour of the life of our custos, Jeffery McKitty.

(His Excellency awaits a moment of silence.)

He awaits the call of the life giver. 

Each year our annual Custodes Meeting and Luncheon provide us with an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the past year. As you shared your reports earlier today custodes, I recognized great challenges, but great opportunities to creatively pull together the resources of your respective parishes in order to surmount these challenges.  

I commend all of you for the tremendous work that you are doing in your respective parishes. As non-partisan appointees you provide balance and a semblance of equity at different levels. Your unbiased position is one which brings integrity and the assurance of fairness to sensitive matters. I especially welcome the support that you are giving to the current national process in which your former colleague, the Political Ombudsman is engaged. This is an opportunity for Jamaicans to embrace shared positive values in ensuring a fair and peaceful process and I commend you for taking up the mantle in this regard, thus strengthening the role and visibility of the Custos in the parish, which will remain after the process is complete.

Honourable Custodes, ladies and gentlemen 2016, I suspect is going to be another challenging year for Jamaica.  Crime and violence, the erosion of family values and the abuse of children continue to plague the country.  These are some challenges with which we grapple and which you must concern yourself. You are strategically placed to use your position of influence within your parishes to strengthen and highlight the norms which undergird our society. 

 You have a golden opportunity, a once in a lifetime opportunity, to make your mark in your parish. If we fail, may God have mercy on us! Hence, the need for your passionate involvement and leadership of the GGPE in your parish to ensure that we cement in our young people the values that will help to sustain them not only now but in their adult years.

I wish you success as you work with your Justices of the Peace, in every community, to motivate and involve them in the transformatory process to be that beacon of hope which assures us that ‘there is nothing wrong with us that cannot be fixed by what is right with us.’

Ladies and gentlemen, I extend best wishes to you and your families for 2016.

I hope you will enjoy your lunch.