Sixty years ago, on August 6, Jamaica stepped forward as a sovereign nation with much acclamation, celebration, and pride.
While this very young nation still struggles with many difficulties — nagging crime being among the most worrisome — we believe it is fitting that today we pause to not only celebrate that decision to govern our own affairs, but recognise its importance.
Sovereignty gave us a much greater degree of control over our own destiny as well as confidence, pride, and identity as a people, and provided the conditions for enhanced respect from the international community, a forum in which Jamaica has excelled.
The point is worth reiterating that, even before political Independence in 1957 ,while Jamaica was still a colony of Britain, this little island 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 evil, undemocratic and racist regime.
That willingness to stand for what is right and principled, and to turn our face against injustice, has defined us as a nation in the eyes of the international community. It's a reputation for which Jamaicans should all be proud and should seek never to betray.
We can reflect with pride on the pivotal 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.
Additionally, 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 issues.
As we stated before, the past 60 years have presented us with serious economic and social challenges, some of which were created by us and which we must correct ourselves. However, we also acknowledge, and are proud of the fact that Jamaica has made significant forward strides since August 6, 1962.
This column does not provide enough centimetres for us to list all our accomplishments; that is why, with your indulgence, we will use this space today to commend our athletes for their magnificent performance over the years and, particularly, at the recent World Athletics Championships; the Commonwealth Games which end in Birmingham, England, today; and the World Under-20 Athletics Championships which closed in Cali, Colombia, yesterday.
We watched with pride the tremendous performances of Mrs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Mrs Elaine Thompson-Herah, Miss Shericka Jackson, Ms Shanieka Ricketts, Ms Natoya Goule, Ms Daniel Thomas-Dodd, Miss Tina Clayton, her twin sister Miss Tia Clayton, Miss Kerrica Hill, Miss Serena Cole, Messrs Rasheed Broadbell, Traves Smikle, Jaydon Hibbert, and Brandon Pottinger, just to name a few.
Additionally, we, like all Jamaicans across the world, were exhilarated by the prowess exhibited by our national netball team, the Sunshine Girls, at the Commonwealth Games, beating all opponents, including Australia and New Zealand, to advance to today's gold medal game.
We are eternally grateful to our athletes for the medals they have so justly earned and the role they play in keeping Jamaica in the international spotlight in a positive way.
Jamaicans must continue to reflect on those who opened the doors for this generation of athletes; champions like Messrs Arthur Wint, Herb McKenley, George Rhoden, Leslie Laing, Keith Gardner, George Kerr, Donald Quarrie, Bertland Cameron, and David Weller, as well as our incomparable women Ms Merlene Ottey, Jackie Pusey, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, Lilieth Hodges, Grace Jackson, and Deon Hemmings, to name but a few.
Combined, they have contributed to this country's rich history and have given us much to celebrate.