Speech by the Prime Minister

The Most Honourable Andrew Holness, Prime Minister Speaks Directly to DART Ahead of their Departure to Bahamas for Relief Efforts

We’re assisting the Jamaica Defence Force in airlift capacity to further assist the people of Bahamas. This is now the second time that the Government of Jamaica and the Government of Canada and the Defence Forces of both countries have worked together to provide airlift for the Jamaica Defence Force Disaster Assistance and Recovery Team. You will recall that this very team was deployed in Dominica and they had an extended deployment where they assisted greatly the country of Dominica to recover. Now, once again they are called upon to be deployed to assist the people of the Bahamas.

Let me say that the threat of climate change is real. You will note that this is the second hurricane season in which we’ve had a category 5 hurricane and the devastation that they have caused is nothing but stunning. The devastation that has been wreaked on two islands in the Bahamas is from what we have seen from the videos and from the feedback, the devastation id almost complete in some instances.

The task of rebuilding will fall to obviously the people of the Bahamas, but they will not be doing it alone. The entire Caribbean region indeed the entire world is looking on and giving assistance to the people of the Bahamas.

The Caribbean region, CARICOM specifically has CDEMA, that is our Disaster Emergency Management Agency. For the Northern Caribbean, Jamaica plays a lead role and we will be executing this lead role by sending approximately a hundred and twenty men and women of the Jamaica Defence Force to assist the people and Government of the Bahamas in the recovery, search and rescue and if they need it to assist with reconstruction. So far what we have seen is that in the initial stages there will be need for recovery assistance because the damage was so extensive. There will be need for logistics assistance as well and so this DART tram is prepared to assist generally in anything that the Bahamian government may need for which we are equipped but in the initial stages the focus will be on recovery, logistics, if there is need for medical assistance and any emergency engineering assistance.

The Government of Jamaica is also considering other ways of supporting the people of the Bahamas and I’ve been in close contact with Prime Minister Minis, the prime minister of the Bahamas. In fact, we’ve been in close contact just before the hurricane, during the hurricane and we continue to be in close contact, in fact, the process of getting this team mobilized started just before the hurricane. I would want to say in commendation of the Chief of Defence Staff and the JDF in general that our planning started many months ago. In fact, it started by augmenting the Disaster Assistance and Response Team so we have increased the numbers because we recognize that with the change in climate that we could have multiples of these kinds of extreme weather events and therefore even though we are sending a hundred and twenty men to the Bahamas we still have a reserve capacity here that God forbid anything were to happen in Jamaica or elsewhere, Jamaica would be in a position to respond.

I want to speak directly to the men and women of the DART team. You’re going as ambassadors for Jamaica. You’re going to reassure, to serve and to assist in recovery. Bear in mind that first and foremost you would want to avoid unnecessary risks to yourselves. You would also want to ensure that whatever you do, whatever service you give, that you give it to the best of your ability and bear in mind that you bare the uniform and the flag of Jamaica. There are Jamaicans in the Bahamas, look out for them as you would look out for the Bahamian people that you’re going there to serve.

I also want to say that the threats for which the Jamaica Defence Force was conventionally established, those threats still exist but more and more the new threats are gaining prominence particularly those that have to do with natural disasters  recovery and so the Jamaica Defence Force in its forward planning and its long-term strategic development will be seeking to enhance our capacity to be able to recover from these  significant weather events and any other threat that may occur.

You are the literal tip of that spear which is why I suspect General you’ve called them the DART and therefore we expect you as I said earlier to be good ambassadors of Jamaica but at the same time to execute your duties according to the good training that you have received and of course do not take unnecessary risks with your own safety.

I wish for you a meaningful, rewarding and safe deployment and at the end of the day I’m certain that the people of the Bahamas will be quiet grateful that you have come to assist them and that you will make the people of Jamaica and the people of the Caribbean proud that as one Caribbean people we can all fall in when there is a crisis and help each other so in closing let me thank CDEMA, let me thank our own Office of Disaster and Emergency Management, let me thank the Jamaica Defence Force and our friends the Canadians who have provided us with this magnificent Hercules aircraft which will enable the deployment. Ladies and gentlemen, officers, soldiers good luck.