LONDON — Hundreds of Jamaicans decked out in the national colours transformed a section of the O2 Arena in London into a sea of Black, Green and Gold, as they celebrated Jamaica's 50th Anniversary of Independence, on Monday, August 6, at special commemorative flag-raising ceremony.
High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Her Excellency Aloun Ndombet Assamba, declared that it was a very good day for Jamaicans, as the country had made a positive mark on the world over the 50 years of Independence.
“We have been a nation for 50 years and we have made our mark on the world. We have made our mark, not just in athletics but with our culture, with our music, street fashion, with our food and we have made our mark on international organisations, the Olympic association, the Commonwealth, and the United Nations (UN) Security Council,” the High Commissioner said.
"We have doctors, scientists, teachers who have come to this country and helped with education, nurses, transport and construction workers and many others who have all contributed in a positive way,” she added, to loud cheers from the audience.
The High Commissioner said that while things are not always how we want them to be, Jamaicans had a lot to celebrate.
"We are going to ensure that our little country continues to be a leader in every sphere of life,” she emphasised.
The highlight of the ceremony was the symbolic raising of the Jamaican flag by Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Warrant Officers, Martin Spauldings and Clive Mullings. The flag was one of those originally created for Independence Day (August 6, 1962). It was formally presented to the High Commissioner by two children representing the future of Jamaica. During the flag-raising, there was a special honour guard made up of former JDF officers and members of the Royal Air Force Cadets.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for the Caribbean, Henry Billingham, represented the British Government at the ceremony. Congratulating Jamaica on its 50th anniversary, he spoke of the strong social and cultural ties between the UK and Jamaica.
“Fifty years on from when the flag of Jamaica was first raised in the National Stadium in Kingston, these bonds endure and indeed are stronger than ever before. The contribution of the Jamaican community in the UK is one that we are very proud of. It gives us a rather unique and special bilateral relationship and we must make the most of this relationship to boost our trade and intensify our cultural links even more,” he said.
Mr. Billingham also praised the contribution of the Jamaican community in shaping British society, adding that the importance of this role was shown in a segment of the Olympic opening ceremony that paid tribute to the Empire Windrush, which brought the first batch of Jamaicans and other West Indians to England.
The flag-raising ceremony, which filled the Jamaica House at the O2 and spilled over to the Jamaica House terrace on the same compound, featured performances by the University of the West Indies Performing Arts Ensemble, Actress Donna Croll and Gospel Singer, Chevelle Franklyn.
Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon Anthony Hylton, read Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller’s Independence Message.
The ceremony was chaired by Executive Director of the Dispute Resolution Foundation, Mrs. Donna Parchment Brown and Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Mr Albert Edwards. It was attended by a host of dignitaries, including the Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill; Minister with responsibility for Sports, Mrs. Natalie Neita Headley, as well as members of the London Diplomatic Corps and the International Olympic Committee Officials. Music was provided by the British Imperial Brass Quintet.