As is our wont, Jamaicans have moved immediately into the task of cleaning up, repairing, replanting and rebuilding after the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy on Wednesday.
We express our sympathy to all Jamaicans, especially those who suffered losses due to the hurricane. The eastern parishes were hardest hit and it will take them sometime to recover. But as we know from our history, we are a resilient people and we will overcome this setback, which has come at a most inopportune time when the country is enduring severe economic hardship.
The Jamaican spirit is one of our biggest assets. We have overcome slavery and colonialism. We have survived far worse disasters than Sandy, such as the 1907 earthquake, Hurricane Charlie in 1951, and more recent hurricanes Gilbert in 1988 and Ivan in 2004. And many of us have overcome poverty and economic deprivation.
We have travelled and worked in difficult conditions, in inhospitable circumstances, all over the world and we have not only survived but we have triumphed. We have achieved many things never before accomplished and several feats thought to be impossible. The Jamaican people have overcome everything that man and nature have thrown at us, and Sandy will not be our biggest challenge.
At a time like this, it is natural to look to one's family first, but let us not forget or forsake the less fortunate. Let us all make an extra effort to assist the old and the disabled, and let us protect the children. This is a time for self-reliance and not an opportunity to call on the Government to solve every problem and provide for our every need. The national coffers can barely meet basic needs.
We must help ourselves, our families, and our neighbours and leave the State's meagre resources to concentrate on those who absolutely cannot help themselves. Remember that the word "neighbour" does not mean only the people living next door. It means, as it is used in the Bible, our fellow man. Love thy neighbour means to be compassionate in deed and word towards all.
We record our gratitude to the security forces and to the essential services for their valiant efforts and for the sacrifices that they made before, during, and now after the hurricane. The churches and charities have to be commended for their enduring generosity with their time, facilities and resources. Jamaicans living abroad are already mobilising to support relatives, friends and institutions.
We expect that most sectors should be able to restore normal operations in a matter of days. Infrastructure has suffered damage, putting a further strain on the Government's already stretched budget. But we are conscious that we have been spared the widespread devastation of other hurricanes.
Government's priority must be to keep the security forces supplied and essential services running. The Jamaica Public Service will be on show, and we urge patience as they move to restore power to the 70 per cent of the island which lost electricity on Wednesday.
Amidst the bad news, Sandy will temporarily boost employment and drawdown inventories, helping the cash flow of the commercial sector.
We are thankful to God for the mercies which spared Jamaica from a much worse natural disaster, as we rely on Him and the Jamaican spirit to see us through these times.