As we gather here today, on Diaspora Day, under the theme “One Nation: Jamaica and Its Diaspora in Partnership”, I am honoured to have the task of welcoming you to Diaspora Convention 2011!
While some doubted our commitment to convene this year, I was quietly confident that we would convert the stumbling blocks into stepping stones. Admittedly, it has not been smooth sailing. Storm clouds threatened to put us off course, but we have arrived safely.
As we pause to renew our resolve to run the race, let us be mindful that this place of arrival is also a point of departure. As we pause to re-assess, re-focus and re-commit, let us be mindful of the long journey ahead. As we pause to acknowledge the significant strides made so far, let us thank those who have helped to chart the course.
People like Roy Williams- former Community Leader and President of the Jamaican Canadian Association; Travis Johnson- former Diaspora Advisory Board Member and President of the Jamaica Society in Leeds, England; the late Professor Rex Nettleford- former Chairman of the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation, are among those who readily come to mind. The input of Messrs. Mead and Hyde, and Dr. Guscot- Honorary Consuls of Jamaica has set them apart.
I also pay tribute to my predecessors- former Ministers of State Franklyn and Robinson. We owe a great debt of gratitude to these men. I would like to place on record my deep appreciation for their contributions to this movement.
Our common interest is to move Jamaica forward, through positive partnership. Our aim is to find more creative ways to strengthen this partnership to which we are devoting ourselves. Our hope is to emerge stronger and better enabled to do the tasks yet undone.
I have always maintained that Jamaica’s potentials far exceeds her problems. We will not resolve our problems overnight; but we must be confident in our belief that we will resolve them. The government cannot do it alone. That is why this partnership is so significant. Each of us has an important role to play.
Our convention’s theme, “One Nation: Jamaica and Its Diaspora in Partnership” serves as a necessary reminder that as Jamaicans, whether we reside abroad or in the homeland on this beautiful island, we constitute one nation. And it also tells us that we have to work together.
The vociferous call for change in how the machinery of government operates is not falling on deaf ears. In so far as Diaspora Affairs go, I assure you that I have been listening attentively. And I hear you.
I commit to proceed with an open mind. I commit to constructive dialogue and timely action. I commit to exercise leadership with compassion, well knowing that transformation is traumatic and that reform results in gains and losses.
My fellow Jamaicans, this is a very important and exciting period in history. There is extraordinary international acknowledgement of the significant role which the Diaspora plays in national development. The recently held World Diaspora Forum in the USA, the African Diaspora Conference to be held later this year in South Africa, plus several similar meetings, are clear indications of diasporic importance and influence. Our major development partners also set aside huge resources, for uptake, in furtherance of Diaspora engagement.
I am pleased that the agenda for this Convention was developed in consultation with the Diaspora. Yesterday, on pre-conference day, we made progress on important governance issues. I take it as a signal of what is to come.
During the course of today and over the next day, we will hear report cards from the Government, the Jamaica Diaspora Institute and our major Diaspora groups. We will discuss specific issues relating to education, health, national security/crime & violence. We will focus on youth empowerment, partnership opportunities & challenges, maximizing Brand Jamaica through sports & culture, investment & trade. We will host the Governor General’s Diaspora Awards. And we will prepare and present our next steps.
We can appropriately view Diaspora Convention 2011 as a precursor to what is to come. 2012 will mark a huge milestone in the life of our nation and it will provide an occasion to showcase the very best of Jamaica. Our athletic prowess is envied and our cultural heritage is well-liked. I am excited about the prospects.
I look forward to an enriching encounter. Let us converse with courtesy, remembering that it is in the midst of diversity that creativity is born.
I hope to meet each and every one of you. It is such a pleasure to welcome you home and to welcome you to Diaspora Convention 2011!
I thank you.