Monday, October 16, 2017

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Prime Minister

Greetings my fellow Jamaicans:

'A great heritage…..a great legacy', that is our theme for National Heritage Week, which culminates today on National Heroes' Day. It is a theme that all of us as Jamaicans need to internalise, appreciate, and bring to the forefront of our daily existence.

The preservation and continuity of our rich and deeply rooted history, heritage, and culture spans generations, and our indomitable spirit is a part of the fabric that makes us who we are as a nation. We have a great heritage to promote and a great legacy to protect.

We cannot afford to treat it lightly, knowing we have had significant global influence on every field, including music, culture, sports, medicine and, of course, our contribution to world history through our national heroes.

Jamaica and Jamaicans can boast of our giants who stood tall against centuries of oppression. We produced heroes that impacted not just our great island nation, but the world.

Queen Nanny is known for her fiery bravery and daredevil boldness.

Daddy Sam Sharpe lived up to his name fully prepared to die on yonder gallows than spend his life enslaved.

George William Gordon took up the struggles of the black masses rather than continue to live the privileged life to which he had become accustomed. For that, he paid the ultimate price.

Paul Bogle marched from Stony Gut, St Thomas, to Spanish Town to demand an audience with the colonial masters so he could plead the case of the oppressed farmers.

Marcus Garvey had a vision, not just for his Jamaican brethren, but for people of African descent the world over. His words of wisdom ring true today. In one of his famous quotes, he said, “If we, as a people, realised the greatness from which we came we would be less likely to disrespect ourselves.”

Norman Manley formed one of our two main political parties and believed self-governance was important to independence.

Sir Alexander Bustamante, considered the father of our nation, dedicated his life to Jamaica, and was imprisoned in 1940 on charges of subversive activities. The widespread anti-colonial activism finally resulted in Parliament granting Jamaicans universal adult suffrage in 1944.

We must make a concerted national effort to always promote our proud heritage among our people, particularly our youth. They need to know, embrace and treasure our Jamaican history and culture, and face the challenges of the future with confidence, optimism and hope.

The spirit of our heroes is within each and every one of us. That spirit of sacrifice, that sense of responsibility and duty towards others, and that inner belief we are connected to a calling higher than ourselves.

We praise and salute those who at times risk their lives to save others in one way or another. Recently, the entire nation was riveted by the story of a young man who risked his own life by jumping into a gully to rescue a child who was being swept away by flood waters. Sheer tenacity and complete faith kept him holding on, both for himself and this young boy, until they were rescued.

We remember, too, the heroism of Jermaine Riley and his brother Jamawno and their friend Ramone Peart who saved the lives of seven people during the May 16 flood rains in Sunnyside, Linstead, St Catherine.

These modern-day heroes reminded us it is in our nature to reach out to others, to sacrifice for others.

On this National Heroes' Day, we salute them, as we do our sportsmen and women; our musicians who, through their work on the international scene, shine a positive and bright light on Jamaica. Indeed, we also have everyday heroes in our military and police forces, our teachers, nurses, and countless others who see sacrifice as a duty and honour in service to our great nation.

Let us resolve to be each other's keeper by giving a helping hand, a listening ear, a voice of reassurance to those in despair. Let us regain the determination to guide our young people who need to be steered in the right direction.

Let us always remember to extend compassion to the elderly and the infirm. It must not be forgotten that they have contributed significantly to our nation and must never fall by the wayside.

Our national heroes have left us a great heritage and legacy to build on; let us preserve it for generations to come.

Peter Phillips

Leader of the Opposition

Once again it is time for us to recognise and celebrate the achievements of our national heroes. Collectively, their exploits and accomplishments have paved the way for Jamaica to move from plantation slavery to nationhood. The bravery and courage of Nanny of the Maroons and Sam Sharpe propelled us along the path from slavery to freedom. Paul Bogle and George William Gordon led the fight for social justice and access to land. Marcus Garvey gave Jamaicans the self-confidence to rise above their circumstances and compete successfully with the best in the race of life. Alexander Bustamante's deep commitment to the workers and Norman Manley's conf idence in Jamaica's capacity for self-government charted the course from colonialism to nationhood.

The journey from plantation slavery to nationhood has made us a proud visionary and ambitious people; always striving for excellence, committed to equality and social justice, and caring for each other. However, we need to bear in mind that with each passing year fewer and fewer Jamaicans have any living memory of any of our heroes. It is therefore of the utmost importance that we utilise the media, the classroom, and our creative artists to inform and educate our children of the great heritage and the great legacy that we have inherited.

Today, as we celebrate our national heroes, let us also pause to recognise the tremendous contribution of the thousands of our ordinary Jamaican citizens who have given and continue to give service way beyond the call of duty to keep Jamaica going.

Particularly at this time, we pay tribute to the members of our security forces who put their lives on the line, battling violent criminals, often without adequate support. We also pay respect to our teachers, health care workers, and the other public sector workers who often give of their personal time and resources to keep the nation's social services functioning in very difficult circumstances. Respect is also due to the thousands of Jamaicans who give voluntary service through their citizens' associations, neighbourhood watches, or youth clubs on behalf of their fellow citizens.

These are the present-day heroes who, by their collective effort, remind us that the vision, hopes and aspirations of the founding heroes of our nation are still to be fully realised. There are still too many suffering from poverty, joblessness, and lack of housing or access to land. Too many of our children are left behind in our educational system without adequate preparation for responsible citizenship and the world of work.

The Jamaica that our heroes lived, worked and died for is one in which no citizen would be a squatter in the land of their birth. In that Jamaica, no child would be left behind by an educational system which fails the majority of students. It would be a Jamaica in which every worker would have a fair share of the wealth they create and equal enjoyment the rights that our heroes secured for them.

This Jamaica, however, can only be built by a political leadership that places the highest premium on integrity and which is committed to the highest standards of public service, while recognising the importance of a partnership with the people they serve.

We can best honour our heroes by providing this leadership in our various areas of endeavour as we rededicate ourselves to the task of building a Jamaica that offers opportunity to all its people, and where we all share and care for each other.

Have a happy Heroes' Day and may God bless you all and Jamaica, land we love.




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