New Oath of Allegiance marks historic ceremony
By Matthew Fallon, Staff Reporter
Thursday, October 24, 2002
DESPITE THREATS of rain and under a darkening red sky, Jamaicans from all walks of life joined together to witness an historic swearing-in ceremony at Emancipation Park yesterday evening.
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson entered the Park through a pristine uniformed Jamaica Constabulary Force flank to a ripple of applause that engulfed him as he passed the central fountain, subdued for the ceremony, and rose to a crescendo as he took the black, green and gold canopied stage.
It was historic for the obvious reasons, P.J. Patterson taking his fourth consecutive oath and for the first time using the newly-crafted oath to the people and constitution of Jamaica. But it was also a meaningful occasion for the many everyday people who were able, for the first time, to witness the swearing-in of their Prime Minister. With church leaders, Members of Parliament, visiting dignitaries and street sweepers yards apart, it was a truly inclusive evening.
"It is just great to come out of the house, get on the bus and be able to walk in and hear the Prime Minister," one Hagley Park Road resident told The Gleaner as a combined young choir, dressed in white and black, performed a beautifully harmonised rendition of Bob Marley's "One Love" towards the end of the ceremony. "It's just about the people," she said. "Nothing imported, the vibes right and down to earth."
Hers was a sentiment shared by large sections of the crowd who had packed the newly-constructed and gently-lit New Kingston showpiece. The air of goodwill and a sense of hope emanated throughout the ceremony as both Governor-General and Prime Minister raised the crowd with prayers for unity and progress.
The smiles across the many gathered shone back under bright floodlights. "This thing never happened before and this have no history," another Liguanea resident said with enthusiasm. "I never been to one before, you know, so now I have the privilege. Many people who never had the privilege have it now."
The public certainly made their presence felt throughout the short ceremony, cheering and shouting slogans. "More fire!" One man cried from the depths of the crowd during Governor-General Howard Cooke's brief address. "Fourth term!" Another cried as Mr. Patterson delivered his speech. As the prayer of blessing drew to a close, a distinctive set of voices rang out, "Selassie I!"