TO SERVE AND PROTECT: PM Holness is escorted by a pair of servicemen at Saturday's Grand Gala; (below) with sons Adam and Matthew.
Amidst all the fanfare and colourful euphoric excitement playing out inside the National Stadium on Saturday, as Jamaicans came together for the Jamaica 54 Grand Gala celebrations, came a sobering, press-pause moment, when PM Andrew Holness went up on stage to address the nation.
The PM, decked out in the national colours, chose to speak on a topic that is dear to his heart and constantly on his mind: the level of care and protection being afforded the nation’s children. As he made clear, the fight to end violence against children must be intensified and everyone has a serious role to play. “Our children are the future, and it takes a village to protect our future,” Holness said. “Violence against children cannot be allowed to continue.”
Getting into the meat of his brief message, at an event populated by hundreds of very young performers, PM Holness urged Jamaicans to dare to care. “If we can be more caring, more understanding, we can start to prepare a future for the next generation, a future of prosperity for all,” he said. “And if you haven’t done so yet, hug [your child] and tell them that you love them.”
Over at the Independence Village on Hope Road, where scores of citizens gathered to watch live action from the Grand Gala on jumbo-sized video screens, PM Holness’ unexpected but much-welcomed message struck a chord with listeners.
“I’m glad he said it because people need to be more caring and respectful of the rights of the children,” Lydia McGregor, a fiftysomething mother of two (with three grandkids back in Westmoreland), told TALLAWAH. “When people see the prime minister say something like that on an occasion like this with everybody watching, it sends a strong message.”
Janet Brown, a mother from St. Catherine, said she was proud of PM Holness for opting to use the occasion to issue such a timely reminder. She told us, “It’s always a good thing to put that in. The children are our future, and we have to protect them, and once you mention that, no matter the time or the place, you get my vote.”