THE new headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, located at 2 Port Royal Street, downtown Kingston, was officially named The Hugh Lawson Shearer Building, in honour of the late former prime minister, on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the announcement during the official opening ceremony at the ministry's headquarters.
Shearer was prime minister from 1967 to 1972 and served simultaneously as minister of defence and foreign affairs. In 1980, he was appointed deputy prime minister and again as minister of foreign affairs, and was the country's longest serving minister in that portfolio.
During the ceremony, Holness was joined by Shearer's widow, Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer; Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith; and minister of state in the ministry Senator Leslie Campbell, in unveiling the commemorative plaque.
Holness said the former foreign minister laid the foundation from the inception of Independence for a principled and forthright foreign policy posture which has served Jamaica well.
The prime minister said the outstanding service and contributions of Shearer, at the highest levels in Jamaica, underpinned by the admirable personal and professional attributes of this distinguished son of Jamaica, made him an exemplar in the conduct of Jamaica's foreign policy and relations.
Holness noted that one of the most acclaimed initiatives presented in the very first policy statement to the United Nations General Assembly in 1962 was the proposal for the declaration of an international year of human rights, which was ultimately observed in 1968.
“It was Hugh Lawson Shearer who delivered the policy statement and under whose initiative the proposal was developed. It was a demonstration of boldness and foresight that only a person of his sensitivity and awareness of the importance of the subject would convey. Hugh Shearer went on to deliver Jamaica's policy statement as a newly independent country annually until 1966, thus pioneering the development of the Jamaican foreign ministry,” he said.
Holness noted that Shearer's exploits at the United Nations were matched only by his outstanding representation of the interests of Jamaica and developing countries in relation to global trade issues.
“His presence at meetings of the group of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and the then European community, in the context of the Lomé negotiations, facilitated the significant role which Jamaica played then, and continues to play, in advocating for a level playing field for equitable trading arrangements for our vulnerable and less-developed countries,” he said.
The prime minister said Shearer's management of his portfolio at the foreign ministry was imbued with his conviction about the inextricable link between domestic and foreign policy.
“He led his staff to operate at their best and earned their admiration for his care, not only for Jamaica's foreign policy and relations but also towards staff development and their personal interests,” he said.
The naming of the new headquarters in Shearer's honour was approved by Cabinet.
The prime minister expressed gratitude to successive ministers, ministers of state, parliamentary secretaries, permanent secretaries and members of staff for their dedicated service that has led to significant achievements by Jamaica on the international stage under guidance of the ministry.