E. Seth George Ramocan, CD High Commissioner for Jamaica
My fellow Jamaicans and Friends of Jamaica,
It is my honour and pleasure to extend warmest greetings and best wishes to you and your families as we welcome a promising 2019.
Over the past year, you have provided invaluable support to the work of the High Commission and to the Government and people of Jamaica. We are indeed grateful for your demonstration of goodwill which has enabled us to accomplish much, despite the numerous challenges.
Last year was a symbolic one in the history of the United Kingdom (UK) and of the Jamaican Diaspora in the UK. It marked the 70th anniversary of the docking of the HMS Empire Windrush, the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the National Health Service (NHS), as well as the 40th anniversary of the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ) UK. These coinciding milestones reflect the strong connection, role and contribution of the Windrush Generation, including many of our Jamaican men and women, to the development of British Society.
To highlight the many trailblazing contributions of our nationals, the Jamaican High Commission was pleased to have launched a Windrush Legacy publication to be released on Windrush Day, 22nd June this year. I thank all the volunteers, led by Mr. Charles Small, my High Commission team and all who have so far contributed to the publication. Special thanks also to Messeurs Peter and Steven Hargitay, Mr. Jonathan Harris, the Nottingham Forest Football Club, as well as Jamaica National Bank (JNB), for their support of this Windrush initiative, as well as in organizing the historic football match between the Reggae Girlz and the Nottingham Forest Ladies, held at City Ground, Nottingham on 28th October 2018. We anticipate even greater things as we prepare for the participation of the Reggae Girlz at the FIFA World Cup to be held in France later this year.
Despite the various global challenges of the past year, I am happy to report that in 2018, Jamaica attained economic growth not seen in a decade, led by government reform and improved fiscal discipline. Jamaica recorded the lowest level of unemployment since records began in 1968, and the Jamaica Stock Exchange was ranked second best performing Stock Exchange in the world based on returns on investment.
Jamaica has also continued to be a leading tourist destination globally, and to lead in tourism innovation, tourism resilience and crisis management. In addition, Jamaica experienced a 21.7% decrease in murders from January to December 2018, as well as notable decreases in serious and violent crimes compared to 2017. This reduction is by no means comforting and as such the Government remains resolute in its crime fighting efforts.
This year, the Jamaican Government also demonstrated its strong commitment to preserving the environment and oceans by introducing a ban on single-use plastic bags, plastic straws, and styrofoam food and beverage containers. The Government has put bold and innovative measures in place to promote healthier lifestyles and reduce the occurrences of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), including through the introduction of a ban on sugary drinks in health facilities and schools. This will complement the important “Jamaica Moves” initiative to be introduced in the UK soon. Additionally, and of great importance, is the action taken by the Government towards the protection and promotion of our precious indigenous culture by successfully inscribing Jamaican Reggae Music on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. I am very pleased, as I am sure you all are, to note these positive developments.
For us here at the High Commission, similar to the previous year, 2018 was certainly an active one. Matters relating to the Brexit process, as well as the unfortunate Windrush crisis were among issues of priority focus for the Mission. I also had the privilege of Chairing the Caucus of CARICOM High Commissioners during this dynamic period in UK- Caribbean relations and benefitted from the support and wisdom of a team of esteemed Caribbean colleagues.
A major highlight for 2018 was the first official visit to the United Kingdom of our Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, MP, who participated in the historic Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), and several other high-level activities, as well as a successful Town Hall meeting in April. During the visit, the Prime Minister represented his colleague Caribbean Heads in raising with Prime Minister May, the many serious concerns facing undocumented Caribbean migrants in the widely publicised Windrush crisis. We remain firmly committed to addressing the issues in the best interest of our nationals, including in relation to the Windrush Compensation Scheme.
The Prime Minister’s visit was followed by a successful first visit in June, of Senator the Honourable Pearnel Charles Jr., newly appointed Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, with responsibility for Diaspora matters. Minister Charles met with key members of the UK Government, the business and Jamaican community and participated in the 6th Biennial Diaspora Conference, which was organized by the Jamaica Diaspora UK(JDUK). We are grateful to all who assisted in the organization of the Conference, including the Jamaica Society Leeds, as well as participants from the six (6) Diaspora regions in the UK, plus Ireland. We look forward to having you join us at the upcoming 8th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference being organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade (MFA&FT). The Conference will be held from 16th – 20th June 2019 and we hope you will consider making your holiday plans this year, around the date of the Conference.
On reflection, the past year was one of much fulfilment for me personally, as well as my hardworking team. In addition to our Prime Minister, our Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and our Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, we hosted a number of other Government Ministers and officials who visited to strengthen cooperation with the UK in their respective areas. I had the honour of presenting my Credentials as non-resident Ambassador to Denmark, Ireland, Finland and Norway and look forward to presenting in Sweden and Cyprus this year. I was able to undertake Community visits to Luton, Manchester and Nottingham, as well as historic visits to Northern and Southern Wales.
As a Mission, we have continued to strengthen our engagement with our valuable Diaspora through the organization of various events including the annual Independence Church Service, Community meetings, Art Exhibition, Reggae Month and Black History Month events, as well as seminars on issues of importance to our community. We have participated in, supported and hosted meetings of many Jamaican organizations. We also continued to show, in tangible ways, our support for the Ministry of Health’s, Adopt-a- Clinic programme and thank those who have firmly stood with us in this effort.
Over the past year, we have sought to strengthen our network of Honorary Consuls through new appointments in Finland, Ireland and Norway. Most recently, Minister Johnson Smith gave approval for the appointment of notable Jamaican, Professor Emeritus Godfrey (Geoff) Palmer, OBE, renown Scientist, human rights advocate and philanthropist, as Jamaica’s first Honorary Consul to Scotland. Professor Palmer’s appointment will no doubt serve to further strengthen the ties of friendship and cooperation between Jamaica and Scotland, at this critical juncture in our relations.
I take this opportunity to convey heartiest congratulations to Mr. Wade Lyn, CBE, Jamaica’s Honorary Consul and team at our Consulate in Birmingham, as they celebrate their 5th anniversary on 4th January. The Government of Jamaica is extremely proud and grateful for the remarkable service which Mr. Lyn and his committed team continue to provide in Birmingham and in the Midlands.
Finally, I thank the various financial institutions, organizations, community groups, the youth, media and individuals that continue to extend the hands of friendship to Jamaica. Thanks also to my committed team at the High Commission who continue to provide amazing service above self. Without a doubt, the lives of many Jamaicans both in Jamaica and here in the UK have been greatly enriched through the kind support which you have all provided. I look forward to the further strengthening of our partnerships in 2019.
Happy New Year and May God continue to bless you and your families, as well as our beloved Jamaica, Land We Love.