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Today, we are gathered as a nation to witness not only the installation of a new Governor General, but also to participate in the creation of several historical precedents.
It is the first time that a native Governor-General on his retirement presents the new holder of the position with the Instrument of Office.
In addition to ensuring a seamless transition, it confers the pleasure and privilege of having our dearly beloved and respected Sir Howard himself transfer the authority to his successor, the Most Honourable Kenneth Octavius Hall.
It is indeed a very appropriate situation because it affords us the opportunity at one and the same time to welcome and congratulate the new Governor-General and his wife and to pay very special tribute to Sir Howard and Lady Cooke who have done so much over the past fourteen and a half years to add dignity, splendour, warmth and quiet efficiency to the positions which they have held as the occupants of King’s House.
Sir Howard’s life story is well known to many. You can rest assured that I will not attempt to tell it here. But it is a story worth recounting and cherishing over and over again.
It is a story of discipline, determination achievement belief in the possibilities of self, community and country, and the exercise of an active Christian faith and witness.
It is a story of full engagement in many and varied facets of national life, all directed to the upliftment of his fellow Jamaicans.
It is a story of using every opportunity to increase knowledge and grow in wisdom and sharing generously with all: young and old, government officials, students and teachers, the sick and the challenged, the talented and those in special need, indeed Jamaicans from all walks of life.
We thank you, Sir Howard, for your long and fruitful years of service to this country in so many areas of national life and more particularly for the high quality of leadership which you have given as Governor-General. You have been exemplary in the performance of your public duties. You have adapted easily and competently to the changes which have taken place as more functions and responsibilities have been entrusted to your office in the last decade and a half.
Despite your long involvement in the political arena and your ideological convictions, you have been able to perform your onerous duties impartially and with unquestioned integrity. Everyone can attest to your even-handedness and correctness in dealing with the affairs of State.
But equally important, you have been an inspiration to our people at home and abroad, as you have maintained a strong and abiding faith in the inherent goodness of our people. You have been, in good times and bad, the constant voice of hope, the flame of inspiration and a living expression of all that is best in the Jamaican nation.
Of course, it has not escaped my notice that you were the only Governor-General to have sworn in a Prime Minister, incidentally the same Prime Minister, on four separate occasions, and that I am the only Prime Minister to have been sworn in by you.
Perhaps it is more than a coincidence that we both have chosen to leave our respective offices at virtually the same time.
I thank you for the personal relationship that we have enjoyed and for the encouragement which you have given to me over the years.
And I thank you Lady Cooke for your continuing friendship and your prayers. All Jamaica thanks you for the support which you have given to Sir Howard during the sixty-seven years of your marriage and for the role which you have played in your own right as First Lady of this land.
Together, you have not only done good for Jamaica, you have been good for Jamaica and all of us will continue to be grateful for your stewardship. History will record your contribution as one to be treasured, and both present and future generations will call you blessed.
History will also record that three of our four Jamaican Governors General have come from the West. The present Governor-General happens to have been born in the parish of Hanover, which is also the parish from which I originate.
Given the fact of his most recent position at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies, it is tempting to reflect on the appropriateness of that institution’s motto Oriens ex occidente lux. The Most Honourable Kenneth Hall can truly be described as a light rising from the west.
I wish to thank the University for accepting so readily that while they would lose your inspired leadership at the Mona campus, ours was a greater need.
I know there is some comfort in the University authorities being able to find as the one to take over the reins, a Member of our Privy Council, Dr. Elsa Leo-Rhynie. I publicly express my confidence that she will prove equal to the task.
As you will be aware from your reading of his curriculum vitae and from the citation, as well as published material elsewhere, our new Governor-General comes to this high office with a wealth of experience; drawn from the world of academia here in the region and in academic and management roles abroad.
He has considerable public and private sector experience and has involved himself in a range of civic and community activities over the years.
He comes to the office at a time when constitutional reform is very much on the agenda, and I am certain that his skills and experience will serve him well in the execution of his duties. But I also believe that he will bring to the office something special.
I believe that in this age of globalisation, our Governor-General will bring to bear on the affairs of state the perspective of one who has seen our country both from within and from without.
His service in the CARICOM Secretariat has equipped him with knowledge of the aims and aspirations of the Caribbean people to deepen the process of regional integration. Let me here express my delight that the President of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency Professor Max Richards and the Governor-General of Belize, Sir Colville Young are present with us today.
He has demonstrated in his own career an unswerving commitment to the land of his birth, to the people of Jamaica and to Jamaica’s development, while having the broader perspective derived from a critical analysis of the regional and international framework.
Well schooled as Professor Hall is in the study and the discipline of history, he is able to place current issues and the dialogue about the future in the context of past achievements and historical trends.
His vision of the future therefore will be one grounded in, but not limited by, an appreciation of our past and present realities.
I go further to identify his success in transforming the face and the character of the Mona campus and to express my firm belief that he will bring that same concern for the welfare and development of the students and staff at Mona to his interactions with the larger family of Jamaican people.
He will enjoy the benefit of a wife who is a talented artist, scholar and administrator in her own right and an active worker within the church community. Mrs. Rheima Holding Hall will, I am sure, complement the work of her husband extremely well and continue the tradition of adding value and lustre to the high office of Governor-General of Jamaica.
As I will not be participating in this way at the next swearing-in ceremony in which our Governor-General will be engaged – in 5-6 weeks from now – let me use the opportunity to make three brief observations.
First, we are indeed a blessed nation in which our natural bent is to give committed, conscientious service when called upon, as demonstrated by the four person whom in a special we recognize today. Let us therefore focus on, let us nurture and encourage positive and enlightened leadership where we find it and resist the temptation to be cynical because of the minority whose tendencies are otherwise.
Second, Jamaica is standing on the threshold of social and economic developments, which can transform our society and enable us to realise the vision articulated for 2015 of a most caring, secure and prosperous nation. It behoves us to keep our eyes on the goal and not allow ourselves to be seduced by becoming too impatient with each other or by seeking attractive but short-term, short-lived solutions. We owe it to ourselves to be strategic and deliberate in adopting measures, which can lead to equitable sustainable development.
And finally, I am convinced that our problems in Jamaica are not so much problems of the mind but problems of the heart. A wise man once said “When God measures a man, he puts the tape around his heart instead of his head.” Our Governors-General, present and immediate past, and their wives, have been models of that generosity of mind, heart and spirit which we would do well to emulate. I hope that as the years pass, each of us will make a more determined contribution to the building of that kinder, gentler Jamaica which I believe is the earnest desire of all our hearts.
I extend to the Most Honourable Kenneth Octavius Hall, warmest congratulations on your appointment.
I wish Their Excellencies every possible success as they begin this exciting phase of their lives. I bespeak for them the health and strength which they will need for this task. I pray that the blessings of the Almighty will always attend them and guide them in their stewardship.
May your tenure be characterised by national harmony and social transformation. May God bless you and Jamaica land and people we love.