NOVEMBER 14, 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In this hall we have had the pleasure and privilege of welcoming many Presidents and of celebrating the friendship between their respective country and ours.
Yet that elation, that sense of having built stronger bridges of friendship and of being part of a thrust towards deeper, mutually beneficial relations, never fades.
With each visiting dignitary, and especially one who belongs to our Caribbean family, there is that deep sense of history being made and the strong hope that our peoples will benefit therefrom.
It is in that spirit that Lady Allen and I welcome you, our special guests to King’s House as we celebrate the friendship between Haiti and Jamaica and embrace President Michel Martelly on his first State Visit to Jamaica. Monsieur Le President, vous etes vraiment bienvenu ici. Mr. President, you are truly welcome here!
I know that since your arrival in Jamaica, you have felt the warmth of the bonds between our countries. This reflects not only our geographical closeness, but also our appreciation of Haiti’s history, your rich cultural heritage and the resilience of your people who have faced grave political and socio-economic challenges, as well as severe natural disasters.
Despite the language barrier, our peoples have been interacting for centuries. For example, many historians consider that the Haitian slave revolt led by Jamaican Maroon Zamba Boukman was the catalyst of the Haitian revolution of 1804.
I well remember how our enterprising small business people, mostly women, would travel to Haiti for purchases in your fantastic Marche du Fer, with which they would stock their stalls.
Haitian art and craft were visible in many places across Jamaica. These were the times when we boasted direct connection via Air Jamaica.
Indeed, the people-to-people contact flourished and formed the basis for formal policies to advocate and support Haiti’s restoration of peace and democratic stability; the consolidation of governance and economic recovery; as well as Haiti’s rehabilitation in the awful aftermath of the catastrophic January 2010 earthquake.
Let me here recognize and commend the contribution and commitment of the Most Hon. PJ Patterson in his role as the Special Representative of CARICOM on Haiti.
Mr. President, Lady Allen and I are moved by our conversation with you as you spoke of the hopes and aspirations of our brothers and sisters in Haiti and the enormous challenges your nation confronts.
I think we all understand how difficult it is to deliver the programmes for which the people clamour, in a context where the Government is constrained by inadequate resources.
Yet it is important to instil in the hearts of our peoples a vision for the growth and development of our countries and a firm belief that in themselves lies the potential for the realization of that vision.
I shared with you my vision for Jamaica and my belief that there is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica.
I am convinced for Jamaica, as for Haiti, that:
- once the creative genius of our people is effectively channelled;
- once they are trained to seize the opportunities which exist, particularly through the technological revolution, our countries’ growth will accelerate and will be sustainable.
It is my sincere hope that your meetings here will bear fruit to the advantage of our peoples and the deepening of our friendship.
Most Honourable Prime Minister
To the People of Haiti!