My fellow Jamaicans:
As we commemorate Emancipation Day on August 1st, let us not forget the extraordinary importance it holds for our lives.
It is the day on which hard won freedom from chattel slavery; the worst form of inhuman imposition by man was finally secured.
Jamaicans at home and abroad are now looking forward with great anticipation to the activities to commemorate fifty years of political independence.
The signing of an independence constitution in 1962 was the result of efforts which began as early as 1754 by the Moravian missionaries.
Independence in 1962 was indeed the ultimate achievement of the struggles of our pioneers many of whom sacrificed their dignity, their own personal freedoms and in some cases paid the ultimate price for their fearlessness.
We must always remember the struggles which ended in the abolition of slavery and the imposition of apprenticeship on the 1st of august 1834 and full emancipation on the 1st august 1838.
Emancipation day is one on which we must reflect on the bravery of our national heroes and heroine: the Rt. Excellencies nanny of the maroons as she led her people during the first maroon war 1720-1739; Sam Sharpe as he laid the groundwork for the 1831 slave rebellion.
Let us also remember that it was their actions foremost among those of others which gave rise to the activities in 1865 of Paul Bogle who led the Morant Bay rebellion, George William Gordon who also led a movement in the mid 1800’s to gain political rights for the recently freed slaves, Marcus Garvey, a staunch supporters of black nationhood, black pride and self reliance and Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Washington Manley.
Whilst we relive the emotions of our ancestors, as they celebrated their new found freedom on this historic day, we must never forget the lessons learnt.
Freedom is not free; we must never take it for granted; the freedom for which we fought brings with it responsibilities. The inequities and inhumanity of slave society must never be allowed to feature in our free society. It is duty of all Jamaicans to zealously guard our values and principles which form the basis of our free society as established in the work of our national heroes and founding fathers.
Let us reflect on the way forward and how to preserve the gains of their sacrifices.
There is much to be done to protect and enhance the future of the Jamaican people.
We must intensify the processes of education and training. We must strengthen our justice system. We must protect the poor and vulnerable.
We must rid our society of corruption, crime and dishonesty.
Finally, though as political leaders, we act as stewards for the people. We must never deny them the freedom of choice, particularly in fundamental matters of justice which was established in 1838.
I wish you a blessed day.
Andrew Holness, MP
Leader of the Opposition