54th Anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence
Statement by H.E. Cheryl Spencer, High Commissioner of Jamaica in South Africa
54th Independence Reception
17th August 2016
It is with great pleasure that I extend to you, on behalf of the staff of the High Commission of Jamaica, a very warm welcome to this reception. While our invitation was to celebrate with us Jamaica’s 54th anniversary as an independent nation, we determined that this year we would have a triple celebration in order to bring more awareness to our history and our mettle as a people. Thus we are tonight celebrating:
1. Emancipation Day which we celebrate on 1 August every year
2. Independence Day which we celebrate on 6 August every year
3. Special celebration of Jamaica as a sprinting superpower while the Olympic games are underway in Rio (there, I have said the word “superpower’)
Photo: High Commissioner Cheryl Spencer of Jamaica and Minister Susan Shabangu toasting to Jamaica's Independence. Photo: Shaun Earl Harris, Afrika Moves
Emancipation Day may be less known by non-Jamaicans and others outside of the Caribbean, but it is an integral part of our culture. Emancipation Day marks the end of slavery and our association with a system which existed in the Caribbean throughout the sixteenth century until full emancipation was achieved in 1838.
The development of agriculture in the Caribbean required a large workforce of manual labourers, which our colonizers found by taking advantage of the slave trade in Africa. The Atlantic slave trade brought African slaves to British, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Spanish colonies in the Americas, including countries like Jamaica in the Caribbean.
Therefore, our celebration of Emancipation Day also serves to place Africa at the centre of the Jamaican experience.
Integral to our celebration of Emancipation Day is the recognition of those who gave their lives for our freedom. Today 17 August marks the birthday of one of our national heroes, Marcus Mosiah Garvey who was born on 17 August 1887.
Our choosing to highlight Marcus Garvey today while we celebrate Emancipation day is that although he was Jamaican, he was important to African history in many ways, leading one of the largest political movements, not only for African political and Economic Independence but also for a re-connection of African Diasporas with the Continent.
Our celebration of Independence on 6 August each year, highlights the next phase of our development as a nation. After the tumultuous years leading to full abolition of slavery, the country moved to its transition from a British colony to full sovereignty on 6 August 1962.
Emancipendence is the word now used for the joint observance or celebration of Emancipation on August 1 and Independence on August 6.
This year we celebrate 54 years of Independence. The theme is “Let’s get together and feel alright”.
More and more we have come to appreciate that independence is not a single event that took place in 1962, but a process which allows us to build a nation for ourselves. Through the struggles, the achievements, the wisdom, the foresight and examples of our founding fathers, we have matured, developed and continue to develop even greater self-esteem and self-confidence.
An example of this is our general Parliamentary elections held on 25 February of this year and the smooth handover of power, when the main Opposition Jamaica Labour Party was declared the winner by one parliamentary seat. As a result, on March 3, the Hon. Andrew Holness - 44 years old – was sworn in as the youngest person to become Prime Minister in Jamaica.
In line with our maturity as a democratic country, we continue steadfastly towards building a country of which we can be proud:
Jamaica has maintained its number one spot as the country of choice for business in the Caribbean region, as indicated by the 2015 Forbes Best Countries for Business Report. We were number one in 2014 and have improved our ranking even further in 2015, that is, to 59th out of 144 nations.
In the area of tourism, our main foreign exchange earner, our diverse, high quality product, with its wide range of hotels, attractions and activities, has allowed Jamaica to deliver on visitor expectations. As such we welcomed some 3.5 million visitors to the island in 2014, and just under 3.7 million in 2015, including cruise ship visitors, stop over visitors and repeat visitors.
In an effort to meet the growing demand resulting from the record numbers of visitors, we are constantly enhancing our tourism infrastructure. In that regard, we recently expanded our accommodations portfolio with a number of new hotels, including prominent brands such as Hyatt Hotels, Palace Resorts and Marriott Hotels.
In July 2015, the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park was placed on the prestigious list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The designation makes the site one of only 32 mixed-heritage sites, as well as the first "mixed-heritage" site for the Caribbean sub-region. The Mountains are also where Blue Mountain Coffee, one of the world's best coffees is grown
Also in December 2015, Kingston was added as one of the new members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. The UNESCO Creative Cities Network increases the potential of our country to assert the role of our culture as a core enabler of sustainable development.
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 progress demonstrated by our achievements in the fields of business and industry, our services sector, science, music, culture, international affairs and Sports.
This brings us to the third segment of our celebrations, that is, Sports. Apart from it being Marcus Garvey’s birthday, this reception was especially timed for after the men’s and women’s 100 meter finals in RIO.
We have maintained a remarkable record in Sports since1948, when the ending of our anthem was not “Jamaica land we love”, but “God save the Queen”. We have not looked back since taking home our first Olympic gold in the 400 meters at that time.
Let’s take A Look – (showing of a 6 minute video followed by the men’s and women’s 100 meter finals in RIO).
We regard our athletic prowess as the epitome of what independence is to us - managing our affairs and owning our strengths. Many of you may not be aware that it was a teenage Usain Bolt who after being offered a plethora of packages and incentives to Colleges abroad, insisted that he would not leave his homeland Jamaica and that he could harness his gift at home. Now many years later, Jamaica has become an athletics training mecca and many from across the world have been going to our track clubs, Universities and sports training facilities to train and run with the best.
In addition, while we were sad that Shelley-Ann Frazer Price could not have retained her title as the fastest woman in the world, for a third time, because of a badly injured toe, her passing of the baton to another Jamaican supports the point that we are a sprint factory and that our long term future in athletics/sports is secure.
We are aware that we still lack depth in some areas, including in athletics, and it will be noted here that in RIO we had representatives in, inter alia, swimming, gymnastics, triple jump. However, we are undoubtedly here to stay as an athletics powerhouse.
Jamaica/South Africa Relations
Which brings me to our relationship with South Africa. We can never achieve our full potential without strategic alliances such as that which we have with South Africa.
The special bond of friendship that Jamaica shares with South Africa is not by chance as you will note the similar colours of our flags and the diversity of our countries resulting in a rainbow nation for South Africa and Jamaica’s Out of Many, One People.
The relationship between Jamaica and South Africa continues on a positive course towards expansion. The visit last year September by the Senior Minister in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Mrs. Maite Mashabane has ensured that we have strengthened the institutional framework of our relations through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Political Consultations. This is to manage our engagement and implementation of the various Bilateral Agreements that have been signed between both countries, on, inter alia, Arts and Culture, Sports and Recreation, Science and Technology.
Our Science and Technology agenda remains the most vibrant and in November last year the second meeting of the Joint Committee which has been established under the Agreement on Science and Technology was held here in South Africa. The core of our cooperation is on working together to maximize 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.
Importantly, we are pleased that South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology, the Hon. Naledi Mandisa Pandor will be visiting Jamaica in November of this year, to participate and be the keynote speaker at our Biennial national awards for science and innovations.
We are also continuing our engagement with the various private sector entities in South Africa with a view to improving our bilateral trade and investment relations which still represent a surprisingly small proportion of our activity.
That is why many of you would have been greeted tonight with an invitation to savour our Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum which has been named the Rum Brand Champion for 2016 by the respected global spirits publication, “The Spirits Business”. The story of the 265-year history of Appleton is a good one to tell, its home of Jamaica, the production of its own sugar cane for rum production and thus the unique ‘cane to cocktail’ production process which has kept this product at the top of its game.
A number of initiatives are in train in collaboration with key Departments, Agencies, Organizations and individuals to increase trade and travel between Jamaica and South Africa.
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. I also wish to thank PRIMO Negotium Holdings Ltd. and GRUPPO Campari, for their support to our celebrations tonight. We thank Noxolo Dlamini, fresh out of London where she participated in the performance of Lion King, and who will be performing, among others, some of our all- time favourites of Bob Marley. Last but not least, we would like to express our appreciation to the Burgers Park Hotel, to Linda and her superb team, for the beautiful arrangements made for our event tonight.
To my fellow Jamaicans – thank you for your continued support to the work here in keeping the Jamaican Flag flying high in this beautiful country which you have adopted as your home! I use this opportunity to big you up and wish you a very happy Emanci-pendence.
In the spirit of getting together and feeling alright, and cementing the bonds of friendship and cooperation between Jamaica and South Africa, may I invite Minister Shabangu to join me in raising a toast to the peace, prosperity and good health of South Africa, its Government and people, the Government and people of Jamaica and the excellent relationship between Jamaica and South Africa.