Mr. Sydney Bartley – Master of Ceremony
Rev Astor Carlyle – Pastor of Webster Memorial
Ministers of State
Members of Parliament/ Senators
Mr. Danny Roberts and other Representatives of the Trade Union Movement
The Kingston Drummers & Students of the Vauxhall High School
Ladies and Gentlemen
Members of the Media
I come to you heralded by the vibrant sound of the drums. The drums are reminders of the journey of our ancestors and of the significance of our mission as a nation to ensure growth and development.
Welcome to OPM on this bright and beautiful morning.
In launching Labour Day 2012, we come together to celebrate our unity as a people, a unity which binds us together in our love of country.
We come together to encourage the spirit of voluntarism which has been one of our strengths over the years and which we must keep alive.
And, we also come together for this Labour Day 2012 to focus on preserving the beauty of our island and its people.
I want to begin, however on a note of remembering, Labour Day 2012, in this Golden Jubilee Year of our independence, a day of special significance.
Let us remember with gratitude and pride, the workers struggle of 1938.
It was their efforts that not only launched the trade union movement but provided the insights, energy and impetus for the final phase of the journey towards political Independence.
Let us remember the workers and the leaders at all levels, whose sacrifices paved the way for us to arrive at this place.
It is important that we highlight, honour and preserve the memories of who we are, from whence we came, what we have done and how we have managed to get here.
This is the fifty-first (51st) anniversary of Labour Day as a national holiday and the fortieth (40th) anniversary of Labour Day as a day of voluntary work in our communities.
It was the administration of Premier Norman Manley that passed the law in 1961 replacing Empire Day with May 23 as Labour Day.
The choice was in recognition of the role played by workers in the movement toward the independence of the nation.
The date was significant as it was on May 23, 1938 that serious labour disturbances took place leading to the arrest of then labour leader Sir Alexander Bustamante.
How fitting it was that in 1961, even before we became an independent nation, Jamaica should choose to break away from one reminder of our colonial past, and in the words of our patriotic song become “triumphant, proud and free”.
It is fitting too that through Labour Day and Workers’ Week, we salute the trade union movement, pay tribute to the workers and honour the memory of those two great stalwarts of our nation – Manley and Bustamante.
History also reminds us that in 1972, then Prime Minister Michael Manley called upon the nation to commemorate Labour Day in a completely different form.
Rather than having parades of rival trade unions, Labour Day became established as a time to honour the dignity of labour with voluntary work for the good of our communities.
Today, exactly forty years later, we honour that call and commit to a revitalization of that mission.
It is a call to care for our country, our communities, our environment, and our people.
While admittedly, we have more to do to realize the full promise of our Independence, and the struggles of those who have gone before, let us never downplay the strides we have made and the greatness we have achieved in our 50 years of independence.
If we do not take pride in ourselves and our country, how else will we find the motivation, courage and strength to fix what needs to be fixed and ascend to new heights?
Labour Day is a time to:
– honour the dignity of work and
– promote volunteerism and fellowship through community improvement projects.
Within the framework of this significant 50th anniversary year, the theme for Labour Day: STEP FORWARD … MAKE JAMAICA BEAUTIFUL is a call to action.
In stepping forward, let us think ahead… let us plan forward and let us act with the future in mind.
The theme places emphasis on cleaning up, beautifying our environment.
It will not be possible to honour our heritage without honouring ourselves and cleaning up our country.
The centre-piece of our heritage the National Heroes Park, will be the national project for this year’s Labour Day.
The appearance of our National Heroes Park should reflect the excellence that was embodied in our revered leaders who we have crowned with the title, “Excellent”.
It should be a showpiece of our inheritance – the “Jamaica, land of beauty”, of which our children lustily sing.
Just envision with me a National Heroes Park, that looks and feels like holy ground — a place that is in keeping with the grandeur of the monuments to our heroes.
When you have finished paying respects to the heroes and the lone female heroine, and you have visited the other great ones in their resting places, you should be able to sit and enjoy a few quiet moments of reflection in a beautiful environment, and rise refreshed.
And, what about the children’s space?
This after all is also Child’s Month and we need to make it beautiful for our children too.
The legacy which we are charged to honour and preserve belongs to the children.
As the scripturefound in Exodus 12.26 in the New International Version of the Bible says: “Then your children will ask, 'What does this ceremony mean?'
Of course, Kingston is not Jamaica.
And so, while the national project is in Kingston, I want to encourage leaders in all the parishes, all constituencies, all the communities to ‘step forward’.
Make sure that your projects of heritage, cleaning up, and enhancement of environment including parks and play areas for children get the full support of your community.
All of us want to see our country an even more beautiful place tomorrow than it is today.
On this Labour Day, let us create lasting legacies of pride, self-reliance and harmonious interaction for the benefit of all, as we “Step Forward and Make Jamaica Beautiful”.
In this year of remembering, we must review our legacy; retrieve and polish the gems of memory to make them sparkle.
All great nations of the world find value in, and draw strength and inspiration from their past. We are no different and Jamaica has a rich history and a glorious past.
To make sense of the present and chart the course for a preferred future, our people have to understand their past.
National hero, the Rt. Excellent Marcus Garvey taught us that.
As we launch Labour Day 2012, the first of the many days of special meaning that we will commemorate during this our jubilee year, let us “step forward” with that strong faith of our forefathers and mothers that has never failed us.
I invite everyone to get together now — in your homes, your communities, your churches, your schools, your workplaces, your corners, to plan your involvement in Labour Day 2012 activities.
Join with others to ‘step forward’ boldly and make this the best Labour Day ever, in celebration of our 50th Anniversary.
Alone we may falter, but together we can: Step forward and Make Jamaica Beautiful
And let’s keep it that way.
Contact: Communications Unit-OPM