Nassau, 24 Dec 2015 – My Fellow Bahamians:
As we celebrate Christmas this year, let us be mindful of one of the great truths impressed upon humankind by Jesus Christ whose birth we are commemorating: Love Thy Neighbour As Thyself.
However, let’s remember that our neighbours extend beyond the persons residing in the house next door. They encompass all of our brothers and sisters in the national family and those from other countries who live among us.
We know that it is easy to love our relatives and friends but if we are to build a stronger and safer Bahamas, we must share ourselves with our neighbours in the broadly defined sense of the term as I have just used it.
Love is usually shown at Christmas by giving material gifts to loved ones and in the fellowship of family dinners, parties and other social events. However, we need to remind ourselves that those who are not in those close circles of family and friends may be in even greater need of our love and compassion, especially at this time of year in this Season of Giving.
If we demonstrate love, compassion, peace, and a spirit of reconciliation towards all persons within our borders, many of the concerns that we have with our society will greatly diminish.
We witnessed real examples of this love and compassion when, in October, a number of islands in the central and southeastern Bahamas were ravaged by Hurricane Joaquin. It was a wonderful, even awe-inspiring example, of the great good that lies within us and of the powerful spirit of neighbourly goodwill that wraps us together into a national family. I cannot commend enough all those civic groups, religious organizations, government agencies and private individuals that partnered with the National Emergency Management Agency in addressing the needs of those ravaged by Joaquin.
At this time of year we should also be thankful for all the many agencies and volunteer groups that came together to help our brothers and sisters in greatest need – the poor, the hungry, the unemployed, those abandoned by their families and left to fend for themselves. These, the least among us, press hard upon the national conscience as indeed they do on our own private consciences as well. We are so grateful for the efforts of all those persons who contributed so generously of their time and resources to help alleviate the misery and suffering of the afflicted among us.
As we prepare to start a new year, we in the government are encouraged by new developments and investments in our Bahamas. Indeed in recent weeks Heads of Agreements for significant new developments were signed heralding a bright economic future for our Bahamas.
We are also encouraged by the progress being made in relation to Baha Mar. We therefore look with optimism and confidence towards the day when this resort will fulfill its promise and positively impact the economic life of our nation. Despite all the setbacks, I remain absolutely convinced that this will happen in 2016. This is not wishful thinking. It is well informed optimism.
We are also buoyed by ongoing infrastructural developments in our nation and by the new pages that are being turned in the vitally important spheres of telecommunications and energy. These improvements are helping us to build a stronger and more modern Bahamas better equipped to meet the challenges of life in the 21st Century.
My Fellow Bahamians,
As we are reminded of the surpassing value of family, we must remember that the fight against crime is a concern for all of us. We must therefore redouble our efforts to work together with our uniformed forces.
We will continue to institute training opportunities and job creation initiatives to ensure that our at-risk youth are afforded positive life changing alternatives.
At the same time, however, those who remain intent on pursuing lives of criminality, who only want to rob and steal or to inflict violence upon others, to such persons, they must hear this: cease and desist because there is no place in our society for those hell-bent on senseless acts of violence. The strong arm of the law will catch up with you, so stop, stop now, and stop before it is too late.
We will be introducing even tougher measures to combat criminality in 2016. Bringing down crime is a challenge of the highest priority and one that we are determined to wrestle to the ground in the New Year.
On that note, I wish to express our appreciation to our uniformed forces, especially the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Defence Force, our Department of Corrections and our Customs and Immigration officers. They are working diligently to make sure that our Bahamas is safe and secure.
To all of our civil servants, I offer thanks and appreciation for the hard work that you do all year long. Your commitment to public service is indispensable to the continued development of our nation.
To those visiting with us, we welcome you to our country and know that when you sample our food, take in our Junkanoo Parades and enjoy our hospitality this Holiday Season, you will return again and again as welcomed and appreciated family members.
My Fellow Bahamians, as we look beyond this Holiday Season and into the New Year, we see a road of progress sprawling before us. Yes, we know that we have a way to go. Yes, we will have challenges. Yes, we will have setbacks. Yet we also see milestones ahead of us, like our National Development Plan VISION 2040, the implementation of the first phase of National Health Insurance, and the expansion of the national economy in ways that are bound to create many new jobs and give rise to many more opportunities for entrepreneurial enterprise. You will be hearing more about our specific plans in all these areas as the New Year progresses.
So, I feel good about our prospects for 2016. It’s going to be a good year for The Bahamas, a good year for Bahamians. I’m convinced of that! And together we can make what already promises to be a good year even better!
I wish each and every one of you, my entire Bahamian family, a Merry Christmas and God’s richest blessings for the New Year.
May the Peace of God that passes all understanding cover all of us in our Bahamas.