Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Professor Stephen Vasciannie, says despite the many challenges the country has experienced over the past 50 years, Jamaica has much to celebrate.
Delivering the keynote address at the Atlanta Jamaica Association’s (AJA) Jamaica 50 Independence Ball and Scholarship Awards ceremony at the Georgia International Convention Centre in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 18, Ambassador Vasciannie told the over 800 Jamaicans and friends that, “when I look at Jamaica today, I see many reasons for celebration and altruism."
He outlined that among the things Jamaicans can be proud of is the fact that the country has a rich democratic tradition, with changes in government taking place without the coups and countercoups associated with other countries.
The Ambassador also said Jamaica was highly ranked among countries as having a vibrant civil society with people in the country enjoying freedom of expression. The ‘Reporters without Borders 2011 – 2012 World Press Freedom Index’, ranked Jamaica 16th out of 175 countries surveyed in the world. This, he said, is the second highest ranking for a developing country and the highest for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Ambassador Vasciannie said Jamaica has a strong judiciary with an exemplary record of fairness and impartiality in applying the law.
Turning to the topic of education, the Ambassador noted that Jamaica has made strides in providing opportunities for an increasing number of people. He pointed to the increase in the number of individuals attending tertiary institutions. Specifically, he noted that student intake at the Norman Manley Law School grew from 75 students in 2007 to 270 for 2012 and is expected to grow to 400 in 2013.
On gender equality, Ambassador Vasciannie said that Jamaica has made significant strides in this area, with women having significant leadership roles in prominent areas of business, government, diplomacy, academia, medicine and law.
Regarding infrastructure, he said the country has advanced significantly through governmental efforts and private initiatives like Highway 2000, the North Coast Highway, the Palisadoes strip, Rural Electrification, the expansion of telephone access, availability of information technology facilities, as well as significant developments in tourism.
Ambassador Vasciannie challenged the audience to focus less on the problems facing the country, and continue to press along with daily living, armed with intense national pride, patriotism and the will to help each other.
The Tropical Sports Club 2012 Scholarship Award went to Danielle Hudson, while the Atlanta Jamaica Association presented an award to Danielle King. In addition, Ms Dawnette Dunbar was made a life member of the Atlanta Jamaica Association, while Mr. Copeland Cumery received the AJA President’s Award.
Among the attendees were Commissioners of the DeKalb County, Larry Johnson, Stan Watson and Sharon Barnes-Sutton; Honorary Consul of Barbados to Atlanta,
Dr. Edward and Mrs. Layne; Pastor of Hillside Presbyterian Church, Rev. Winston Lawson and Mrs. Lawson; Jamaica’s Honorary Consul to Atlanta, Vin Martin; Mrs. Lisa Vasciannie and Rev. Dr. Noel and Mrs. Erskine.