It is a great honour and pleasure for me to extend a very warm and special welcome to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his distinguished delegation. I am also delighted to welcome you all to this dinner marking the excellent relations enjoyed between Jamaica and Malaysia.
Prime Minister, your visit holds a special meaning for me for two reasons: it is the first official visit to Jamaica by a Malaysian Head of Government. The second reason is that this is the first official visit that I am hosting as Prime Minister. Indeed, there has been so much interest and enthusiasm surrounding this dinner that we have had to move it from the dining room to this lovely outdoor setting.
Prime Minister, your acceptance of our invitation clearly demonstrates the importance of the relationship between our two countries, and I thank you for doing so. It is no coincidence that your visit is the first of its kind for my one-month old administration. For us, Malaysia represents the ideal bilateral partner. As developing countries of the Commonwealth, we have many things in common: our countries both have a vibrant multi-ethnic, multicultural population, with traditions characterized by a commitment to democratic values, human rights and respect for our fellow citizens. We view diversity as a source of strength and cultural enrichment, and place educational advancement and the empowerment of our youth at the centre of our national policies. The cultural and ethnic differences within our respective populations and the talents embodied in our human resources are key assets in our quest to create a more productive and internationally competitive labour force, while promoting a more socially cohesive society.
At the international level, we share a firm belief in the importance of multilateralism as the only way to treat with issues concerning global peace and security, development and social justice. As members of the Non-aligned Group, which Malaysia so effectively chairs, and the G-77 and China, which Jamaica had the privilege of leading up until a few months ago, we are at the forefront of the struggle against injustice and the fight to preserve equity in global and regional affairs.
As members of the Group of Fifteen, we fully support measures that foster trade, investment and technical assistance among countries of the south. We seek to deepen our dialogue with the north in a spirit of sovereign equality in order to promote better standards of living, peaceful co-existence and economic advancement for our peoples.
The strength of our relations lies not only in our shared interests and outlook, but also in our ability to learn from each other’s expertise and achievements. Your visit provides us with a unique opportunity in this regard. The government of Jamaica is extremely grateful for the assistance provided under the Malaysia technical cooperation programme. Jamaica has benefited from training in a variety of areas, including public administration, irrigation systems, diplomacy and library studies, science and technology. There has also been cooperation in the area of higher education between the University of the West Indies and the University of Malaysia and we anticipate opportunities for education exchanges to occur with our university of technology as well as.
Mr. Prime Minister, under your leadership, Malaysia continues to make great strides toward fulfilling your vision of achieving developed nation status by the year 2020.
Malaysia has recorded remarkable economic growth and social development in just two decades; transforming from a provider of raw materials to a producer of high-tech industrial products combined with a thriving service sector. With a population of under 25 million, it has become the world’s 18th largest trading nation.
Mr. Prime Minister, we have keenly followed the strategic and purposeful manner in which you, and your predecessor, have nurtured and implemented the vision of a developed Malaysia. Barely a month ago, you sought to push your country “full steam ahead”, through the adoption of the Ninth National Development Plan and launch of the National Mission: “a broad-based development framework for the planning and implementation of Malaysia’s development policies toward achieving the goals of vision 2020”.
The major thrust and objectives of your national mission resonates with my own vision for Jamaica, which is to empower communities by creating wealth that can be broadly generated and distributed throughout the entire country. To this end, your plan’s focus on rural wealth creation, agricultural regeneration, incentives to small and medium enterprises and continued assistance for the underprivileged are of great interest to my government.
Malaysia’s strategic and principled approach to national development is also mirrored in its bilateral and multilateral relations. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties between Jamaica and Malaysia just over 30 years ago, our relations have expanded to encompass a wide range of areas of cooperation.
The most notable area of collaboration in the recent past has been in highway development. Indeed, the realisation of the highway 2000 millennium project was born out of a commitment of my predecessor, the most honourable P.J. Patterson, to develop Jamaica’s infrastructure, together with the visionary approach of your predecessor, the Honourable Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. Indeed, when we embarked upon this programme of technical cooperation with Malaysia, we knew we had engaged expertise of the highest standards, in that Malaysia is globally recognized as a leader in the field of highway development.
I reiterate our profound gratitude to the government of Malaysia for the invaluable technical assistance we have received from the Malaysian highway authority and the ministry of works in the planning, development and implementation of Jamaica’s first toll road- highway 2000. I would also like to pay special tribute to Honourable Samy Vellu, the Minister of Works of Malaysia who has shown remarkable enthusiasm and given strong support to the realisation of this project. Minister Samy, I am pleased to welcome you once again to Jamaica.
Prime Minister, I am particularly, pleased that tomorrow you will be able to see, first- hand, the fruits of our partnership when you tour the first corridor of 80 kilometers of highway 2000.
At our meeting today we agreed to give priority attention to promoting and implementing specific programmes in the areas of trade and investment, tourism, energy, shipping, information and communication technology, agriculture, higher education, sports, infrastructure development and public health. We particularly welcome cooperation in the area of education, which is not only the key to the future, but also a way of bringing people together.
There is much scope for increased activity in the area of trade and investment. We have therefore agreed to encourage our private sectors to work together to improve the levels of trade and investment flows. I am therefore pleased that the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica will host a luncheon in your honour tomorrow afternoon, at which you will share the opportunities for business between our two countries.
Mr. Prime Minister,
As mentioned earlier, our two countries have cooperated readily and effectively at the multilateral level. Indeed, Malaysia’s international presence is strong. One indication is your country’s current chairmanship of three major and important regional and international bodies: the association of East Asian nations (ASEAN), the Non-aligned Movement and the Organisation of Islamic Conference.
Thank you for briefing me, during our bilateral talks, on the developments in ASEAN and the Non-aligned Movement. In a few month’s time, your country will hand over chairmanship of the NAM to Cuba. I use this opportunity to congratulate you for your excellent and effective leadership of that institution over the past three years, which has done much to enhance and revitalise the movement.
In Jamaica’s foreign relations, the principle and practice of south-south cooperation are of paramount importance. As developing countries, our strength lies in our solidarity and unity in advancing our common concerns, advancing our common cause and achieving our common goals. Tonight, I therefore join you in striving to further the dynamic, enduring, productive and smart partnership that exists between, our countries and among other developing countries.
In this spirit, I invite all of you to join me in a toast to the prosperity and well-being of the government and people of Malaysia.

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