Lady Allen and I are very pleased to welcome you to King’s House on the occasion of this Dinner in honour of Members of the Diplomatic Corps.
Please allow me to specially welcome our non-resident High Commissioners and Ambassadors, who are visiting our shores for the first time. I certainly enjoyed our brief but interesting exchanges at the ceremony for the presentation of Letters of Credence on Monday. May l say how relaxed and radiant everyone looks tonight. I can see that you are enjoying or settling in to your hopefully successful tenure in Jamaica.
I have never been a career diplomat but I think I have heard descriptions of the delicate nature of the duties involved…as described by an anonymous writer, " A diplomat remembers a lady's birthday but forgets her age." or "A diplomat is one who can put his cards on the table without showing his hand."
Your Excellencies, this unique experience called Diplomatic Week has, for almost two decades, been providing the opportunity for mutual dialogue and exchange between our Diplomatic communities, particularly those who are non-resident. Of integral importance is the opportunity to renew acquaintances, establish new contacts, experience first-hand interaction with the Jamaican people, with insights into our way of life, especially the many nuances which make us distinctively Jamaican.
It is very pleasing to see so many of the 160 countries with whom we have diplomatic relations represented here this evening by their Ambassadors, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Jamaica is well aware that in our region, as elsewhere, peace and development are inextricably linked. It is for this reason that on the occasion of the Second CELAC Summit held in Cuba in 2014, our CARICOM Community expressed the desire to have Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace. Evolving since the declaration, is the rapprochement between the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America and we look forward to the continued strengthening of those relations in the years ahead.
Since our last celebration of Diplomatic Week in 2015, some notable developments have taken place, some of which you are probably already aware:
1. Jamaica’s election to the:
• Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, and the
• Executive Board of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
2. Celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations with Mexico, through the issuance of commemorative postal stamps. (I am a proud recipient of a set of the first day issue.)
3. The successful and spectacular hosting of the Olympics in our hemisphere in Latin America – Rio-Brazil-2016. And of course we are particularly delighted with some of the results. We reiterate our heartiest congratulations to Brazil for its spectacular and impeccable hosting of the Games.
4. Because February is Black History month, I must mention the 2015 unveiling of the “the Ark of Return” at the UN Headquarters in New York. This is - the Permanent Memorial in honour of the victims of slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
This initiative spearheaded by Jamaica and its CARICOM partners, serves in part, as Jamaica’s contribution to the International Decade for People of African Descent from 2015 – 2024. Your Excellencies, these achievements could not have been attained without the support of the Governments which you represent.
Over the past two years, we bade farewell to several Heads of Mission, which reminds us that change is the only constant in life.These include:
• twelve (12) resident and twenty-six (26) non-resident Heads, as well as the former Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, His Excellency Mr. Nii Odunton.
We learnt also of:
• the passing of two former Ambassadors in 2015 one from the Kingdom of Spain and the Republic of Egypt.
Despite these departures, thirty (30) High Commissioners and Ambassadors have joined the Diplomatic Corps in Jamaica since:
• Ten (10) resident, and
• twenty (20) non-resident Heads.
Again welcome all to the Diplomatic Corps in Jamaica and my wish is always for a rewarding and successful tour of duty.
Honourable Ministers, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is our esteemed pleasure to share your company and we hope that this evening will even surpass your expectations for a memorable and satisfying experience.