Jamaica Independence Day
Statement by H.E. Cheryl Spencer, High Commissioner of Jamaica at the 53rd Independence Day celebration of Jamaica
7th August 2015
Representative of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Representatives of DIRCO and other South African Government Departments
Excellencies, Colleagues from the Diplomatic Corps
Representatives from various organizations and institutions in South Africa, including from the business and Academic Community
My fellow Jamaicans
Friends and well –wishers of Jamaica
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of the staff of the High Commission of Jamaica, it is with great pleasure that I extend to you a warm welcome (no pun intended), this evening, to the new official residence of the Jamaican Government in the Republic of South Africa and to this year’s celebration of Jamaica’s 53rd anniversary as an independent nation.
I know that some of you have travelled far distances – Durban, Lesotho, Namibia and we appreciate your efforts to join us here this evening.
A very special welcome to my counterpart, South Africa’s High Commissioner in Jamaica, H. E. Mathu Joyini, who have joined us this evening.
Let me also use this opportunity to express my appreciation to all of you who have welcomed me into the fold here in South Africa and after six months I must say that I feel very much at home.
While Independence Day falls on the 6th August, we at the High Commission felt strongly that we should celebrate on this Friday evening where our partners, Jamaican family and friends of Jamaica can be more relaxed and be able to celebrate a country that despite its small size, has touched the lives and hearts of many.
In Jamaica, Independence celebrations began weeks ago and culminated yesterday in the annual grand gala.
For this year’s Independence, we are giving prominence to our national costume- the Bandana. The Bandana is a plaid fabric, usually of red and white background, but may include variations of maroon shades - similar to this shirt that I am wearing.
The Bandana is derived from the Hindi word "Bandhana" meaning “handkerchief” or to "tie". The story is recorded that a shipment of bandana was sent from Madras to Bombay in India. However the shipment ended up in Bombay, Manchester in Jamaica. To make a long story short, this fabric was auctioned off, passed from slave masters to slaves and has been used on festive occasions and in cultural activities such as our annual festival and Independence gala, ever since.
Where am I going with this you may ask?
It is to highlight our interesting and colourful past as well as the reality that Jamaicans love to celebrate independence.
Today we celebrate with pride. At 53 we celebrate that we are still “triumphant, proud and free”.
We recognize that our full potential as an Independent Nation is yet to be realized. However, through resilience and hard work, we can be proud of our rich historical and cultural heritage demonstrated by our achievements in the fields of sport, culture, international affairs, science, business and industry. In addition, we continue steadfastly towards building a country of which we can be proud:
• Inflation has been reduced to its lowest level in 48 years;
• We have positively transformed the country’s physical and economic infrastructure including our network of highways,
• Out international credit rating has consistently been upgraded;
• We are the country of choice for business as indicated by the 2014 Forbes Best Countries for Business Report. This report ranked Jamaica 64 out of 146 countries, making it the best country in the Caribbean region to do business and third in the Latin American and Caribbean region after Costa Rica and Mexico.
• Our Island continues to be the destination of choice for a growing number of vacationers and investors
• And, let us not forget that we have produced and continue to produce the fastest men and women in the world.
One of the important partnerships that Jamaica has established along the path of its development is our relationship with South Africa. We are proud of our democratic traditions and in that context the role played by Jamaica in the political and diplomatic process to end apartheid in South Africa.
We were the first country to declare a trade embargo against South Africa, as early as 1957, while the island was still a colony of Britain and thus without responsibility for its external relations.
And this tradition continues. Since the start of this year, four Jamaicans have assumed leadership positions in important organizations geared towards the promotion of international justice and the protection of human rights. These are:
Judge Patrick Robinson to the International Court of Justice
Mrs. Carlene Gardener to the International Civil Service Commission.
Professor Verene Shepherd to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and,
Mrs. Margarette Macaulay to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
These strong Jamaicans were able to beat a field of Candidates including from prominent developed and emerging countries.
The relationship between Jamaica and South Africa continues to “shine as a beacon of cooperation” and is poised for expansion.
This event comes on the heels of the visit to Jamaica of Mr. Luwellyn Landers, Deputy Minister in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation from 8 – 10 July 2015. There are also discussions underway on a visit by the Senior Minister in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Mrs. Maite Mashabane in September.
We will continue to build on these and other positive, high level visits, exchanges and initiatives, between both countries with a view to achieving more vibrancy in our relations.
In that context, it has been recognized that despite various Bilateral Agreements that have been signed between both countries, on, inter alia, Arts and Culture, Sports and Recreation, Science and Technology, there is no Structure within which to consistently engage and review the results of the excellent bilateral and political relations which Jamaica boasts with South Africa.
Therefore, both sides have agreed to conclude, as soon as possible, a Memorandum of Understanding on Political Consultations. This we hope will be signed during the visit of Minister Mashabane in September.
It has also been acknowledged that bilateral trade and investment still represent a surprisingly small proportion of our activity. Therefore, the expansion of Jamaica’s trade relations with South Africa, and indeed the entire African continent, remains a priority.
In that regard, the High Commission will be participating in a number of events which are scheduled to take place over the coming months.
We are expecting to host senior officials and other science interests, who will be travelling to South Africa to participate in the second meeting of the Joint Committee which has been established under the Agreement on Science and Technology. The core of our work will be on maximizing the trade potential on both sides from our nutraceutical industries. As many of you may be aware, of the 160 plants declared as having medicinal properties worldwide, over 50 per cent, that is 80 of them, can be found growing in Jamaica.
In addition, we are enthusiastic about a Visibility Seminar which is being organized by the Caribbean countries in South Africa to sensitize the South African private sector and other Stakeholders of our economies, our trading environment and relationships and on doing business in our countries.
As we celebrate today, we have taken up the charge given by our Most Honourable Prime Minister that triumph over the remaining challenges of nationhood is not beyond us. In that regard, she reminds us of the importance of the continued support of all persons, groups and sectors of the Jamaican society at home and in the Diaspora in order for our country to remain proud, free and to achieve lasting peace and prosperity in the years ahead.
Therefore, before closing, I would like to express our deepest appreciation to those persons who on a daily basis work on behalf of Jamaica and help to promote Jamaica not only in South Africa but in various parts of Africa.
Thank you – you are all part of the Jamaican family!
To the Jamaican community which is a critical part of our mandate, you have supported the work of the High Commission since its inception and we thank you for keeping the Jamaican Flag flying high in this beautiful country which you have adopted as your home! We also know that we can count on your support in our upcoming initiatives.
I also wish to say thank you to the staff of the High Commission along with family members without whom this event would not have been possible.
A special thank you to Elliott Mobility, Africa’s premier provider of moving and relocation service, for their invaluable contribution and support over the years, including this event.
Finally, our sincere appreciation goes out to Lucky and Nkulee Dube for providing the beautiful reggae sounds this evening.
In the spirit of “One Love, One Family”, I would like at this time to invite Mr Andries Nel, Deputy Minister from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, to join me at the podium after which we will ask you all to raise your glasses in a toast in recognition of the longstanding bonds of friendship and cooperation between Jamaica and the Republic of South Africa.
I now wish to propose a toast to the continued bonds of friendship and cooperation between Jamaica and the Republic of South Africa – and importantly, that both our countries are proud and free.
High Commission of Jamaica in Pretoria, South Africa