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2009 New Year’s Message By Portia Simpson Miller, Leader Of The Opposition

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As we welcome 2009, we can lift our hearts in thanksgiving for the privilege of witnessing the dawn of another year and for the precious gift of life.

This New Year is greeted with varying degrees of reflection – The hope that each new year brings, for some the making of resolutions and for others, apprehension.

The world is currently experiencing a global economic crisis. The economies of many countries are already in “recession” and the negative impact that this will have across the world, including Jamaica will be significant.

In Jamaica, we have already begun to feel the impact of the crisis, as a large number of our population, including middle income families, professionals, business persons, and the most vulnerable, are all facing severe hardships as our economy contracts.

All predictions are that 2009 will be a challenging time for all countries of the world.

As Buju Banton reminds us “It’s not an easy road”.

Yet, I can say with certainty that whatever lies ahead, we are better able to overcome the challenges if we come together and forge a partnership as a nation working for the survival, growth and development of our people and country.

The capacity to overcome has been bequeathed to us by our foreparents who despite the seemingly insurmountable indignities piled on them by slavery, were relentless in their struggles so that we could be free.

Marcus Garvey said it well .”They suffered, they bled, and they died.

But with their sufferings, with their blood which they shed in their death, they had a hope that one day their posterity would be free”.

We are the children of their hope – we are their torch bearers:

let us light a torch
a torch of peace;
a torch of love;
a torch of unity

Let that flame ignite the passion and energy that will move us forward in one accord.

For those of our people who are descendants of the Jewish people, Asian, Indian and other immigrants, a similar strength flows through your veins as your foreparents gave up all that they had known, to face the seas of uncertainty as they embarked upon a new life in Jamaica.

We must now embrace that resilience and honour their convictions by coming together as one people in the face of these modern challenges that face us.

All of us as leaders, must find ways to motivate and inspire our people to bond together through this difficult period.

History has shown us over and over that it takes people-conscious inspirational leadership to make the best of times out of the worst of times.

As Jamaicans, we have proven many times before that once we are motivated and assured that the collective effort is geared toward shared outcomes, we will find the strength, the will and the resources to accomplish what we will.

Every generation before ours faced challenges. However, with strength, courage and determination they triumphed over these adversities.

For our generation there is no exception. We are however, better able to confront the challenges because of the advances we have made and the access we have to information and sophisticated technology. We must ask the question; what opportunities for greatness is this experience trying to teach us?

As we reflect on the 2008, we must admit that there was too much violence, too many accidents on our roads which claimed the lives of our loved ones and caused others of us pain and suffering, an unacceptably high rate of abuse and murder of our citizens, especially our women and children.

All of us should resolve that for the year ahead, we will do our part to foster love, peace and unity.

As we look toward a new year, there is an opportunity for us as a people to regain something of value. 2009, is a time for fighting, not with each other but :

  • for the equality and respect of all citizens, young and old;
  • for the freedom from injustice, oppression and exploitation of the most vulnerable amongst us;
  • and for the pride and empowerment of all our people in the management of their homes and the care of their communities.

I believe that it is the lesson that Marcus Garvey and all our other National Heroes, in their own unique ways, have tried to teach us. That lesson is – nothing worthwhile can be achieved without unity.

It was the power of the collective energy and of unity, that animated and supported our heroes as they challenged the power-structure at various points in our history.

It is therefore, not surprising that so many of our poets and songwriters rely on the theme of unity to express their artistry.

The Festival Song entry of 1967 by the late Desmond Dekker and the Aces, called “U-N-I-T-Y” unity, springs to mind.

This powerful song says:
“This is the time that we all should live as one, brothers This is the time that we all should live as one, sisters”
“Look into the age that we’re living in today” and “.come along brothers and come along sisters. U-N-I-T-Y – This is unity.”

My New Year’s wish for Jamaica is that as brothers and sisters – We will make 2009, the year of UNITY –

Let us set aside the differences that separate us and focus on the bonds that unite us.

That this will be the year that we begin to shape, in earnest, a future of peace and prosperity that generations of Jamaicans have dreamt about.

Let us build stronger families, which will lead to stronger communities, stronger parishes and ultimately, a stronger Jamaica.

This year let us all take responsibility for Jamaica – this land that we hold so dear; this land which has nurtured so many of us.

These things are all possible; once we attain that new consciousness that makes us mindful of the advantages of working together in unity.

This year must be the year to give renewed meaning to our national motto – “Out of many one People”.

The recent national experiences have given clearer meaning to the concept of people-centered policy and the need to balance people’s lives as we keep focus on balancing the books.

Unless both are prioritized, all our targets will be missed and our efforts shall be in vain.

At this time of grave economic and social challenges, we need to bond together – community by community and parish by parish as one family working for the betterment of our country.

We can do it if we work together, if all of us can unite around some common goals.

One such is the love and protection of our women and children- making our country safe for the next generation of Jamaicans.

Another is to provide even greater care for the elderly as we thank them for their contribution to our lives and continue to glean knowledge from their life experiences.

All of us must demonstrate the belief that together we truly can succeed.

We are known to be a loving, caring and hard-working people.

As we face the New Year – we must face it with a spirit of determination, dedication and the commitment to change things which hold us back.

I quote from Marcus Garvey when he says ..”I trust that you will so live today as to realize that you are masters of your own destiny, masters of your fate; if there is anything you want in this world it is for you to strike out with confidence and faith in self and reach for it..”

Together, as one Jamaica, as one family, we can do these things , because we must.

I wish for you and your loved ones a happy, peaceful and prosperous 2009; one that brings you great fulfillment and that you will receive in abundance, all that is good.

May God continue to bless you throughout the coming year!

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