Current Affairs

Current Affairs





Prime Minister of Jamaica, The Most Hon. P.J. Patterson ON, PC, QC, MP

As a nation, we are all celebrating the wonderful achievements of our team at the 28th Olympic Games just concluded in Athens. We sent them off with high hopes, knowing of their talents and determination to live up to the tradition of excellence in sports that is a hallmark of our country.

Every Jamaican, here at home and abroad, would wish to personally extend their warm congratulations to this magnificent group of young athletes who have brought such great glory to this island.

Once again, I do so on behalf of every Jamaican.

When I speak of the team that made possible the wonderful results we achieved, I include not only our remarkable athletes, who put in the long arduous hours of training, and submitted to the rigid discipline required. I speak not only of those who on this occasion won medals - Veronica, Aleen, Sherone, Tayna, Beverley, Danny, Sandie, Nadia, Michelle and Novlene. I speak of the entire contingent who performed incredibly well; of every single one of them who stood on the world stage - among competitors from more than 260 nations - and gave it their all. I say to the many who qualified for the finals and to those who gave performances that were their personal best, we are proud of all of you!

Our deepest thanks as a nation also go to the large number of persons who contributed to our success .the parents, the extended families, the coaches, the teachers, and the large number of volunteers who, in the way that has become the norm in the field of Jamaican sports, give so much of their time and attention. They are satisfied with being the wind beneath the wings of our athletes and so allow them to soar. It brought great joy to all those who made the journey to Athens as well as to each of us who remained behind and eagerly waited, with bated breath, for the final results.

I must also heartily thank the large number of generous corporate sponsors whose financial support is a critical ingredient in this national effort. I include those whose sponsorship, in collaboration with our media houses, allowed us to view and hear the events live and direct and to share exciting photographs and graphic reports of the events.

My support for and recognition of sports as a vehicle for engendering a spirit of national unity has always received the support of the entire country. Sports, like culture is a bridge which spans any political divide between our communities. In the modern world, sports is not only a vehicle for personal fulfillment but is increasingly becoming a vocation which provides tremendous professional opportunities.

This is the perspective which informs our decision to institute an Annual Award of Excellence in Sports as well as cash incentives for performance. Our private sector, which has made such a critical difference to the development of sports, is ideally placed to work with us in the expansion of economic opportunities for our sportsmen and women.

Even as we celebrate the success of our athletes, we must now direct our efforts to ensuring an equally successful school year. Parents, students and teachers and our wider communities must now resolve to give all our children the support they need to realize their full potential in academic subjects, as well as sports and cultural pursuits.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that success in any field of endeavour comes as a result of a personal determination to succeed in spite of the odds. The road is never easy. And in the end it is the sacrifice of the individuals and their families and the network of community support that make the difference.

The Ministry of Education has led the entire public sector to make sure that we are ready for the new School year and the Minister of Education will outline the arrangements in a national broadcast next Sunday.

Early in August, we were mercifully spared the full force of Hurricane Charley but did not escape completely. The farmers of southern St. Elizabeth, and to a lesser extent some portions of Manchester, were seriously affected.

My Ministers were early in the field to inspect the damage and to determine an appropriate response from the Government. When I toured the affected areas, I was greatly encouraged by the positive spirit in which the farmers had started the re-planting process, a practical and most heartening demonstration of the resilience that is so characteristic of these people.

As promised, RADA is already at work there. Farmers have now begun receiving aid with planting material of all kinds from the JAS and the Ministry of Agriculture. Let me remind those farmers with loans from PC banks, that they should visit their banks as soon as possible to negotiate the re-scheduling of their loans. By re-financing these loans they will be able to maintain their credit rating as responsible borrowers.

The re-building of roads damaged by the torrential rains began almost immediately, and is well underway.

The current upsurge of criminal violence is of grave concern to all of us and demands urgent action.

The security forces have achieved some success against the big boys in the cocaine trade and, as a consequence, the gangs are intensifying their struggle for control of the extortion racket and for turf. So even as we record some success in the war against drugs, there is no rest as we have to intensify our efforts even further in order to dismantle the criminal gangs.

Our experience in the counter-narcotics area indicates the critical importance of effective intelligence. We are therefore upgrading our intelligence gathering capabilities, as it relates to organized crime and gangs, with welcome assistance from overseas partners.

A team from the London Metropolitan Police will be coming to Jamaica this month to continue discussions with the Minister of National Security and his team with a view to securing additional assistance and involvement in police investigations and providing the requisite support from the Jamaica Defence Force.

In the meanwhile, we continue to increase the number of police personnel in the field and seek to improve the organisation of the Force to better meet the current situation.

To improve the mobility of the Police, in addition to over 50 new vehicles which arrived here last weekend, and with another 20 on the way, we will be purchasing another 150 four-wheel-drive vehicles suitable for rough terrain.

To stem the flow of guns across our borders, we are acquiring immediately six (6) marine vessels for the Marine Police.

The Jamaica Defence Force will also have a decisive role in our border control efforts and, before the end of this month, a Coast Guard Station will be established at Black River. Work is also underway in Montego Bay for a similar Coast Guard facility to be completed by the end of this year.

Also in Montego Bay, the old Summit Hotel has been refurbished and additional Police personnel will be permanently stationed there.

Once again I reiterate that we must support every police initiative to bring the criminals to justice. We cannot give in to their campaign to derail our national development.

We are all looking forward to giving our athletes the welcome they deserve for carrying our flag so proud and so high. I know that everyone is anxious to participate in this but I must remind that many of the team have already had to return to college and we will not be able to have this national celebration immediately, as we have to organize a convenient time when they can all be with us. So please be patient.

In the meantime, the nucleus of a team is already in place to plan a fitting celebration to honour them here at home - at their schools, in their communities, and in the capital city. Our Jamaican brothers and sisters overseas will also have the opportunity to honour them. These plans will be widely publicized as soon as they are complete.

Even as we tackle our challenges, let us enjoy the morale boost that our sportsmen and women afford us.

This weekend, our Reggae Boys have an important World Cup qualifying game against Panama at the National Stadium. Let's go out and support them.

We are also working hard to prepare for a successful hosting of the Cricket World Cup Games in 2007.

Let us all participate enthusiastically in these efforts.

We must build on the great spirit of national unity we are now enjoying. Let us renew our commitment to the further development of this beautiful island we call home.

May God continue to bless our athletes and bless all of our citizens overseas and here at home in Jamaica, land we love.

Questions, comments? Write, call or send email to: 

People's National Party

89 Old Hope Road

Kingston 6, Jamaica W.I.