Today, we celebrate our 59th anniversary as an independent nation, standing tall among the community of nations across the World.
We Jamaicans have made our impact on the world. Our culture is an international trend-setter, increasingly influential due to its magnetic appeal. The many manifestations of our culture – be it our music, dance, food, artistic imagery, language, and expressions – are rated, embraced, and copied all over.
Across the Globe, our unique and powerful national flag is recognized as an iconic symbol of who we are, a proud, strong and creative nation of high achievers who punch above our weight.
In sports, our athletes’ accomplishments are legendary. They have set world records, won medals and made Jamaica a sporting powerhouse.
Our major musical forms, from mento and ska to reggae and dancehall, have been major influences in the popular music of the world. Our celebrated artistes have inspired the spirit of equal rights and justice in the fight against oppression wherever it exists.
The names and faces of our cultural giants like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, indeed Usain Bolt, Shelley-Ann Frazer-Pryce are recognized, admired and loved as global champions of excellence.
Our path to independence was charted by the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors, many of whom suffered and died to secure the rights and status as citizens that we enjoy today. The struggle, sacrifices and immense resilience of the Jamaican People are embodied in our National Heroes.
We have so much to be proud of and thankful for as we celebrate our independence. Since 1962, Jamaica has remained a constitutional democracy governed by the rule of law. We choose our governments by democratic elections, and we accept the will of the people. We have built important institutions to strengthen our governance systems. We enjoy freedom of expression and freedom of the press, an area in which we rank among the highest in the world.
Despite our many achievements over the years, there is much to be done to build trust and confidence among the people for those who exercise the powers and responsibilities of government on their behalf.
We must continue to strengthen and improve the systems and institutions which protect the freedoms of our people and promote transparency, integrity and accountability in all areas of governance.
This is also an appropriate moment to remind ourselves that our journey to independence is incomplete. Our Head of State is not a Jamaican and does not live here. Our final court of appeal remains a vestige of colonialism, sitting in London many thousands of miles away, and a majority of the Jamaican people have no practical means of accessing justice there. Fixing these things should transcend party politics, as they touch and concern our identity as Jamaican people. I take this opportunity once again to call on all the leaders of our country to join together in taking the steps to complete the circle of independence, by addressing these important outstanding matters. Time come!
This is a particularly challenging time for our country and the world around us. The devastating COVID-19 pandemic has been with us for a year and a half now, taking lives and disrupting economies. I express my condolences to those who have lost loved their ones and extend gratitude to all those who have served on the frontlines to keep us safe, here at home and abroad. It remains a serious threat. I urge my fellow Jamaicans to act responsibly to protect your health and the health of others around you.
Ahead of us remain many challenges and obstacles – the three Terrible C’s of violent Crime, Covid and the Cost of living; severe economic hardships, major problems in the education system, the dangers of climate change, and more.
We will cross them if we come together as a nation and join hands and hearts to achieve our national goals. To our athletes participating in the Tokyo Olympics, congratulations on this achievement. I wish you the best of luck. I know you will make us proud, whatever the outcome, and to Jamaicans everywhere, Happy Independence Day! Celebrate safely!