This year, more than any other, the real meaning of emancipation and the opportunities that it has provided for our growth and empowerment as a people and a nation, have been articulated as we continue to recognize the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade.
The dialogue that has emerged has helped us to accept the reality of our violent history in the pre-emancipation era; as well as, the resultant dignity and value of our freedom.
It also provides a new opportunity for us to use the legal framework that emancipation provided to chart a new and more peaceful course of national development; as we seek to shape a just and sustainable society for our people.
History has already taught us that we can only achieve a strong nation through the collective effort of all Jamaicans. Therefore, we must now work to build communities from within by galvanizing the energies and passions of our people.
We must move swiftly to answer the calls for justice, by teaching the tenets of law and order. And, most of all, we must accept that the answers to these issues are within our own hands.
We must also seek to instill in our citizens respect for the selfless contributions of our ancestors-Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle, George William Gordon, Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Washington Manley, and all the others, whose heroic interventions secured our emancipation and independence.
As we celebrate this day, let us pay tribute to these stalwart nation builders, not only in words but also in our deeds. And, in honour of their pioneering initiatives, let us recommit to:
- Educate our children about their rights and privileges as free citizens of this nation
- Build caring communities that will impact on the lives of all peoples
- Become new Jamaican citizens, committed to the rule of law, and the promotion of freedom and justice
So my fellow Jamaicans, I invite you to think on these things and to honour both the heroic achievements made by our ancestors and the legacy of courage, optimism, abiding spirituality and determination which they have bequeathed us.