Biden congratulates Jamaica on 61st Independence Anniversary

President Joe Biden speaks during an event to celebrate the passage of the "Bipartisan Safer Communities Act," a law meant to reduce gun violence, on the South Lawn of the White House, Monday, July 11, 2022, in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks during an event.
Associate Press/Evan Vucci

The Biden administration on Sunday congratulated Jamaica on its 61st anniversary of political independence from Great Britain.

“On behalf of the US government and the American people, I send my sincere congratulations to Jamaica as you celebrate the 61st anniversary of your independence,” said Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken in a brief statement. “We are honored to work with Jamaica to find solutions to pressing regional challenges. 

“Through our deepening partnership, we uphold our shared democratic principles, collaborate through the US-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis (PACC 2030), and secure the prosperity of our citizens,” he added. 

Blinken said this close friendship is built on “a strong foundation of personal connections and a vibrant Jamaican-American community.”

“May the year ahead be a happy and prosperous one for all Jamaicans,” the US Secretary of State urged. 

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) also extended congratulations to Jamaica on its 61st Independence Anniversary.  

CARICOM Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett on Sunday sent the Community’s congratulations to Prime Minister Andrew Holness. 

“On behalf of the Caribbean Community, I am pleased to extend heartfelt congratulations to the Government and people of Jamaica on the country’s 61st Anniversary of Independence, which is being celebrated under the theme, ‘Proud and Strong’”, she said in a statement. 

“Hon. Prime Minister, the Caribbean Community is extremely grateful for your stewardship and guidance in the Quasi-Cabinet of the CARICOM Heads of Government as Lead Head with responsibility for advancing our external trade relations, including negotiation,” she added. 

“We particularly appreciate your commitment to the Community’s actions in support of our sister CARICOM Member State, Haiti,” Dr. Barnett continued. “Jamaica’s willingness to host the first consultations between the CARICOM-appointed Eminent Persons Group (EPG) and Haitian stakeholders underscores a longstanding commitment to regional peace and security. 

“As the Caribbean Community unites with Jamaicans to celebrate with great pride your numerous achievements at home and on the international stage, we are confident that the country will continue to make tremendous progress,” Dr. Barnett said. “I take this opportunity to reaffirm my own commitment and that of the staff of the CARICOM Secretariat to work assiduously alongside you and your Government to realize our aspirations for integrating our beloved Caribbean Community. 

“I extend wishes for the continued development, prosperity, and well-being of the Government and people of Jamaica as you mark your 61st Anniversary of Independence,” she said. 

In his independence message, Holness said: “When you are independent, you walk your own road to success, peace, and prosperity. Independence, therefore, begins with a road. 

“Today, I am standing on the May Pen to Williamsfield Highway, which is slated for completion at the end of August 2023,” said Holness on Sunday. “This infrastructure, like all the others currently under construction across the island, represents development and ease for Jamaicans. It represents progress, growth, transformation, and independence.  

“Today, I stand in acknowledgement and reflection on our attainment of 61 years of national independence and my thoughts, as always, are about my Jamaican people and what independence means for them,” the prime minister added. “On Aug. 6, 1962, when we raised our own flag, bearing the much loved and celebrated, black, green, and gold, we heralded in our political independence.” 

Since that time, he said Jamaica has embarked on a journey to become economically independent, with one aim; “to raise the standard of living of our people and to provide every Jamaican with the opportunity for an improved quality of life. 

“To do this we would have had to achieve economic growth,” Holness said.

He said Jamaica, except for the early post-Independence years, that is the period during the 1960s, and for short periods during the 1980s and early 1990s, has not experienced insignificant economic growth, “a phenomenon which has persisted well into the 2000s.” 

“This cumulative stagnation has prevented many of our people from achieving the standard and quality of life they deserve,” he said. “This is why since assuming leadership of this great nation in 2016, we have prioritized economic growth and job creation; these are the pillars of prosperity.” 

Amidst global challenges, the prime minister said Jamaica has been able to report eight consecutive quarters of economic growth; a historically low unemployment rate; net international reserves of $US4.17 M as of June 30, 2023; increased export earnings of 55 percent for the first quarter of the 2023 calendar year in comparison to the corresponding period last year; “and of great importance is the fact that we have been paying down our debt; our debt to GDP [Gross Domestic Product] stands at 78 percent and is projected to decrease even further.”

Importantly, against all odds, Holness said his administration has “defied expectations”, and that the island’s economy has recovered from the global economic shocks of the COVID – 19 pandemic and the supply chain disruptions. 

“We were able to achieve this, all while ensuring a safety net for our most vulnerable through a historic cash transfer to cushion the effects of the pandemic,” he said. “Not only did we recover from the pandemic, but we surpassed our pre – COVID economic indicators and, despite the ongoing war in the Ukraine, which has caused a global economic environment of inflation, Jamaica has remained stable and now we are seeing glimmers of hope, as inflation is slowing.  

“Our current economic position means your government will have the fiscal space, that is, more resources, to provide services for you our people who are rightly demanding an improved standard of living for yourselves and your children,” he told nationals.” 

But Holness said while improvements in the lives of Jamaicans are worth celebrating and acknowledging, “there is still much ground to cover, to transform Jamaica into a truly independent, developed, self-sufficient, modern, and peaceful nation within which our people can thrive. 

“This transformation requires commitment, unity, selflessness, sacrifice, and courage,” he added, stating that “sacrifice and courage are crucial to turning around the fortunes of our beloved country that for years failed to deliver for its people. 

“The improvements we have been able to make for our people over the last 7 years are decades late,” Holness continued. “We understand this, and we understand the urgency that Jamaicans feel; but, finally we are making progress and prosperity is within reach.”  

Holness will address Jamaica’s 61st Independence Anniversary Gala on Aug. 19 at the New York Hilton Midtown, Manhattan.

“Distinguished guests will be privileged to witness an evening of excellence, as Prime Minister The Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON delivers the Jamaica 61 Independence Message, spotlighting the theme ‘Proud and Strong,’ which perfectly embodies the exceptional achievements of this year’s honorees,” said the Consulate General, New York in a statement.

Holness also expressed “heartfelt congratulations to this year’s illustrious honorees of the Jamaica Independence Gala.”

“As I prepare to deliver the Jamaica 61 Independence Message at the gala, I am filled with anticipation to personally congratulate each honoree for their outstanding accomplishments,” said the Jamaica Prime Minister in a statement. “Their dedication, talent and unwavering commitment to their respective fields have not only brought pride to Jamaica but have also positively impacted the lives of countless individuals.

“I commend the Consulate General of Jamaica and the Jamaica’s Promise Foundation for their tireless efforts in bringing together this remarkable event,” he added. “It is through their dedication and support that we are able to honor our outstanding achievers and contribute to the betterment of Jamaica through charitable causes.”

Jamaica Consul General to New York, Alsion Wilson, said, on behalf of the Planning Committee of the Jamaica Independence Gala, that she was “delighted to unveil the remarkable honorees for this year’s highly anticipated event.

“We are thrilled to announce the stellar lineup of honorees who have demonstrated unwavering commitment, remarkable talent and unparalleled contributions in their respective fields,” she said.

The honorees comprise: Orville “Shaggy” Burrell, a diamond-selling, multi-GRAMMY Award winning recording artist and dedicated philanthropist; Stephen Facey, chairman of Pan Jamaica Group; Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton, a highly respected dermatologist and successful entrepreneur; Marc Jerome, president of Monroe College; Marlon Lindsay, CEO of 21 Cent Ed; Sheryl Lee Ralph OJ, award-winning actress; and Ruel Stephenson, assistant chief of the New York Police Department (NYPD).

Wilson said Burrell will be honored for “being an international cultural icon in reggae music and philanthropy”; Facey will be presented with the award for “business leadership and the development of Jamaica”; Dr. Ingleton will be honored with the Jamaica Independence Award for “Woman of Excellence in Medicine and Business”; and Jerome will be recognized for “education excellence and the development of Jamaica.”

The Jamaica Consul General in New York also said Lindsay will be honored for “leadership in STEM education and entrepreneurship.; Ralph will be presented with the Jamaica Independence Award for “outstanding contribution to film and television”; and Stephenson will be honored for “leadership in law and enforcement and community development.”

Wilson said the Jamaica Independence Gala is an annual event held in New York that celebrates “Jamaica’s rich culture and heritage.”

The event is hosted by the Consulate General of Jamaica, New York in partnership with the Jamaica’s Promise Foundation.

“The goal of the event is to bring together Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica in recognition of the nation’s independence, while supporting various causes at home through the generosity of the attendees,” Wilson said.

“The 2023 Gala will serve as a platform to support charitable causes in Jamaica, focusing on education, healthcare, and community development,” she added.