United States President Barak Obama has lauded Jamaica for its continued leadership within the Caribbean, as well as its commitment to democracy, prosperity and security of the region.
Obama made his comments during a brief ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House where he received the credentials of Jamaica's 11th Ambassador to the United States Professor Stephen Vasciannie on Monday.
"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 programmes such as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and is a leading political voice in the region," he declared.
Obama added: "One hallmark of our close collaboration is the joint efforts we have undertaken to counter the growing threat posed by narcotics and weapons trafficking to the security of our citizens and our economies."
He noted that this year marks a special time in the history of the US and Jamaica's diplomatic relations.
"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 cooperative relationship across a broad range of issues including trade, investment, citizen security, and energy security.
Obama said: "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 per cent of Jamaica's tourism market."
Obama emphasised that his country and Jamaica "continue to cooperate on many shared priorities in the areas of rule of law, anti-corruption, counternarcotics, law enforcement, and promoting economic growth".
In welcoming Jamaica's new envoy, Obama said he looked forward to working with Vasciannie to advance their common agenda and deepen the strong and abiding friendship of both countries.
In his response, Vasciannie said: "As a responsible partner in the hemisphere, Jamaica remains ready to work with the United States 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 CBSI 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 "Jamaica has been a beneficiary of a variety of cooperation programmes for which we are truly appreciative". He pointed to the US Peace Corps, which has seen more than 3,800 volunteers working in Jamaica since the inception of that programme as well as "the work of the USAID in Jamaica has been deep and continuous and has been integral to the achievement of Jamaica's development goals"
The new Jamaican Ambassador expressed Jamaica's profound appreciation for the continued support of the US Government and expressed good wishes on behalf of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, to the people of the United States, for continued peace and prosperity.
Vasciannie took up his tour of duties in Washington on July 17 after serving as principal of the Norman Manley Law School at the University of the West Indies.
In the meantime, Obama yesterday announced the designation of a presidential delegation to Kingston to attend the celebration marking the nation's 50th year of Independence.
The delegation will be led by General Colin Powell (Retired), former US Secretary of State, and will include Pamela Bridgewater, US Ambassador to Jamaica, and Yvette D. Clarke, US House of Representatives, New York.