Let's celebrate the land of our birth


Let's celebrate the land of our birth

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

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Today, as we celebrate the decision of our forefathers, 57 years ago, to govern our own affairs, let us remember that sovereignty gave us not only a much greater degree of control over our own destiny, but also confidence, pride and identity as a people.

The sceptics among us will bellyache that we have not done much with our Independence. They will point to crime, which still hangs like a millstone around the neck of the country; a justice system that, while showing some signs of improvement, is still moving slowly; and, of course, poverty which, according to the latest survey of living conditions increased by two per cent in 2017 when compared to 2016.

In response to that report, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke has highlighted that the data point to a broader declining poverty trend in Jamaica.

“The poverty rate for 2017 of 19.3 per cent, though higher than the 17.1 per cent in 2016, was lower than the 21.2 per cent in 2015, and significantly lower than the 2013 poverty rate of 24.6 per cent. This points to a generally declining trend when seen from a broader time perspective,” Minister Clarke is reported as saying.

While the figures prove his point, Minister Clarke should expect that the Administration will receive political flak, given its election promise to move Jamaica from poverty to prosperity.

That aside, we hold that Jamaica has a lot to celebrate since Independence in 1962, and there is much that augurs well for our future.

People should remember that even while still a British colony, Jamaica was at the forefront of the global campaign against apartheid in South Africa and was the first country to declare a trade embargo against that racist regime.

That willingness to stand for what is right and principled, and to turn our face against injustice defined us as a nation in the eyes of the international community. It's a reputation for which all Jamaicans should be proud and should seek never to betray.

We also recall with pride the important role played by Jamaica, through its then Foreign Minister Mr P J Patterson, in forging the agreement that led to the original Lomé Convention in 1975.

And, as if that were not enough, over many years Jamaica has played an outstanding role as a member of the United Nations, directing international focus to important issues such as human rights, decolonisation, economic co-operation, and, most commendably, women's rights.

We accept that over the past 57 years the island has been affected by serious economic and social challenges — some of which were created by us. However, we are seeing steady and impressive improvements in the performance of the economy, and there are myriad programmes making a difference in the lives of Jamaicans, particularly the most vulnerable.

But even as we deal with those needs, we must not ignore the the fact that we are blessed with one of the most beautiful lands on Earth and wonderful people enriched by their creativity, talent, resilience, capacity to work hard, and a willingness to resist injustice.

The Jamaican people are indeed special, and our global legacy is rich, having produced some of the world's most notable individuals, among them national icons Bob Marley and Nanny, as well as Marcus Garvey, Usain Bolt, Mary Seacole, and Una Clarke, to name a few.

There is so much more that is great about this country that would not fit in this space. So even as we acknowledge that there are still problems affecting us, we should not avoid celebrating the land of our birth.

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