President Obama hails Jamaica

President Barack Obama led the voices of congratulatory message lauding Jamaica for its democratic principles and relentless pursuit of independent leadership when he accepted credentials for the island’s newly appointed ambassador to the U.S., Professor Stephen Vasciannie.

The president made his comments at a ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House after accepting the documents.

“Over the years, we have come to know Jamaica as a leader in the Caribbean. As one of the largest countries in the Caribbean community, Jamaica is an indispensable partner in programs such as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and is a leading political voice in the region,” the president said.

“We are nearing the beginning of the third year of the CBSI, with its strong focus on a collaborative approach to ensuring citizen safety. I am pleased that our Caribbean neighbors have worked closely with us to make it a reality. Jamaica’s contribution to our CBSI discussions have greatly strengthened the counter narcotics and counter terrorism components,” he added.

Pres. Obama used the occasion to compliment the nation’s government for its close collaboration in ensuring security of the region.

He praised the joint effort saying: “we have undertaken to counter the growing threat posed by narcotics and weapons trafficking to the security of our citizens and our economies.”

The nation’s golden celebration was not lost on the leader.

“On August 6, Jamaica will celebrate 50 years of independence, and shortly thereafter, the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations with the United States. For the past 50 years, Jamaica and the United States have shared a long history of friendship, based on a mutual commitment to democracy, prosperity, and security in the Caribbean region. Our countries have enjoyed a fruitful and co-operative relationship across a broad range of issues, including trade, investment, citizen security, and energy security.”

“Beyond the common interest of our governments, our people share an unbreakable bond and close family ties. Jamaica’s dynamic culture has deeply enriched the fabric of American society. An estimated 1.5 million Americans of Jamaican descent live in the United States and are integral parts of our country’s history and tradition, and many are among our distinguished leaders across numerous disciplines. Over 10,000 American citizens, many born on the island and dual nationals, live in Jamaica today. Visitors from the United States account for 64 percent of Jamaica’s tourism market,” he added.

The president pointed out that the U.S. and Jamaica continue to co-operate on many shared priorities in the areas of rule of law, anti-corruption, counternarcotics, law enforcement, and promoting economic growth.

“Last March, with the government of Jamaica’s concurrence, the United States sent delegates from our State, Justice, and Treasury departments, and USAID, to meet with top Jamaican diplomatic officials to explore ways to intensify our co-operation in education and poverty elimination,” he noted.

While welcoming the new ambassador, Pres. Obama said he looked forward to working with the new ambassador in order to advance a common agenda and deepen the strong and abiding friendship of both countries.

In response the ambassador said that as a responsible partner in the hemisphere, Jamaica remains ready to work with the U.S. to counter challenges to the region emanating from terrorist activities or other threats to the preservation of peace, security and democracy.

“To that end, we are pleased to be a part of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Commission, which we hope, in conjunction with the ongoing Merida Initiative, will stem the flow of illegal drugs into the United States and the trafficking of illicit weapons to the region,” Vasciannie said.

Vasciannie pointed out that Jamaica has been a beneficiary of a variety of co-operation programs, for which the country is truly appreciative.

He cited the Peace Corps which has seen more than 3,800 volunteers working in Jamaica since the inception of that program, as well as the work of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The ambassador expressed Jamaica’s profound appreciation for the continued support of the United States and extended good wishes on behalf of the island’s Prime Mminister Portia Simpson-Miller and the people.