PM says all is not well, but Jamaicans can feel proud

Phillips:There are still major challenges; GG urges return to values

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness yesterday used the release of his annual Independence Day Message to respond to critics of his Government's efforts to protect the environment and reduce crime and corruption.

Holness said that while there many positive things have happened over the past 57 years of Independence – of which Jamaicans can feel proud that the country is using political Independence to secure economic independence – he was under no illusion that all is well.

“Notwithstanding the great performance, there is no room for complacency; there are still many pressing issues to resolve,” the prime minister said.

Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips, in the meantime, said that, while the Independence celebrations provide an opportunity to recognise the country's culture and achievements, and treasure the existence of a functioning democracy, there were still major challenges which require urgent and collective action.

“We are yet to construct the kind of inclusive economy, or achieve the rates of economic growth necessary to give all our people a good standard of living,” Dr Phillips said.

In his message, Governor General Sir Patrick Allen urged Jamaicans to return to the virtues of respect, liberty, freedom and nationhood, “so that our country can flourish and celebrate many, many more prosperous years of Independence,” Sir Patrick said.

Prime Minister Holness noted that environmental issues are now of greater concern to all Jamaicans and agreed that they are in the forefront more frequently due to intense droughts, shifting rainfall patterns, and frequent and intense hurricanes

“This Government that I lead has taken more decisive actions in favour of our environment than any other Government in our recent history,” he stated.

He noted that actions such as aborting the Goat Islands project; rejecting coal as an option for powering bauxite operations; creating an enterprise team to oversee the divestment and modernisation of Jamaica's solid waste management system; and, instituting a ban on some plastic items are all geared towards the protection of the environment.

The prime minister, meanwhile, announced that the Government will shortly launch a deposit refund scheme for plastic bottles, and was in the stakeholder consultation process to declare certain areas in Black River as protected areas, and that he will shortly announce a massive tree planting programme right across Jamaica.

Holness insisted that, most importantly, the Government has settled the boundaries of the Cockpit Country, which had been unresolved for decades.

“In so doing, we considered the particular geological features of the area, and the ecology and biodiversity which grows from it and depends on it; the forest and all that live in it. We also considered that the cockpit country is a water bank for Jamaica, storing vast volumes of the precious commodity in caves and caverns beneath it. Based on the technical advice of the expertss and after consultations, the boundary of the area to be protected was decided,” he pointed out.

According to Holness, protecting the Cockpit Country is an important step in protecting “this critical national asset” for generations to come, and ensuring that there will be no mining, or any other activity that could harm the environment in the protected area.

He said that the Cabinet also took a further step to ensure that before any mining can be done in areas outside of and close to the Cockpit Country protected area as is defined an environmental impact assessment study must be done.

“We are very sensitive to the concerns raised about the Cockpit Country Protected Area, and we are very sensitive to the area surrounding and in close proximity to the Cockpit Country Protected Area. The Government remains committed to protecting our environment, and will only pursue projects that are environmentally sustainable,” Holness said.

Dr Phillips condemned the fact that too many Jamaicans were still earning below the National Minimum Wage and were barely surviving without a real stake in the land of their birth.

He said that nothing highlighted the emerging crisis caused by these circumstances more than the persistent high rate of murder and criminal violence.

“This creates a deep sense of fear and insecurity among Jamaicans. These high rates of crime set back our economy and places pressure on our communities. Worst of all, it spreads tragedy among our families,” Dr Phillips said.

“The problem has been with us for a long time, but it is getting worse. Nevertheless, I continue to believe in our capacity and potential as a people to successfully overcome the challenges that we face. It is that indomitable spirit that overthrew British colonialism. It is that indomitable spirit that laid the foundations of our Independence,” Phillips added.

He said that the Opposition would be sharing the recommendations from its recent summit on violence to work towards a national consensus that would enable the people to overcome the threat to the country.

Sir Patrick said that the theme of the Independence celebrations this year, “One Nation, One People” encapsulates the message that, in spite of the differences, Jamaicans must unite in a mission to build a peaceful and prosperous nation.

“The world around us is characterised by divisiveness, turmoil, and uncertainties. There are threats to the physical environment, growing intolerance of differences related to ideology, ethnicity or culture. We are often disturbed and numbed by the flagrant disrespect for human life,” the governor general said.

“However, against these realities, we must remind ourselves that most Jamaicans represent the best of our wholesome traditions and values. Our citizens have benefited from a level of social responsibility, without which our achievements would not have been possible. Our development and processes will, therefore, depend on how we build social cohesion and national unity,” he added.


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