My fellow Jamaicans,
As we celebrate the 57th anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence, we salute the patriots who built the national movement and laid the foundations of our nationhood.
Independence time also provides us with an opportunity to celebrate our culture and the achievements of our country and our people.
We should always treasure the fact that we have remained a functioning democracy.
Our Charter of Rights in our Constitution provides every single Jamaican with protection against arbitrary arrest and detention and guarantees our basic freedoms.
However, despite these real achievements we must also recognize that there are still major challenges which confront us as a people and which require urgent and collective action.
We are yet to construct the kind of inclusive economy or achieve the rates of economic growth necessary to give all our people a good standard of living.
Too many Jamaicans are still earning at or below the minimum wage and barely surviving without a real stake in the land of their birth.
Despite the gains that have been made in opening up our educational system, our society is still scarred by what I call the unequal apartheid system in education.
This presently leaves the majority of our children without adequate preparation for survival and success in today’s world.
Many of the rights acquired over the years by our workers have either not been fully achieved or are being eroded.
Despite the law providing equal pay for women, today our women are still only getting on average 60% of the pay for doing the same jobs that men do.
Increasingly, some businesses are using the fiction of “contract work” to deny workers, who are full-time in every other respect, their rights. These workers are denied sick leave, vacation leave, maternity leave and, for the most part, have no pension rights.
All of this contributes to an increasingly widespread view that life in Jamaica is not fair.
Perhaps nothing highlights the emerging crisis caused by these circumstances more than the persistent high rate of murder and criminal violence.
This creates a deep sense of fear and insecurity among Jamaicans.