On the day President Barack Obama arrived in Jamaica, most adhered to the 2,500-year-old Chinese code of conduct — see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.
The proverb symbolized by three monkeys in display of their theory probably seemed befitting to host the American leader most of their generation endorsed during his 2008 bid for election and rejoiced after his victory despite their foreign destination.
Anticipated by nationals across the island his one-day stop before attending the CARICOM conference in Panama, the consensus has been an overwhelming theme ‘welcome to Jamrock’ — best verbalized by a hit song recorded and released by bob Marley’s youngest son Damian.
For the most part, Kingston has been spruced, briefed and ready to greet the leader. And although Jamaicans consider the visit akin to a national holiday, here the president’s leave of absence from the White House to stop into the Caribbean and Central America has been virtually missing from the headlines in American press reports.
Prior to his arrival on the island, street vendors were alerted to temporarily vacate certain areas within view of the presidential entourage. In order to beautify some of the eye-sores in the capital city, a clean-up campaign engaged nationals to plant flowers and decorative shrubs throughout areas of potential presidential visibility.
Reportedly, in the Rae Town area, a clean-up operation was forcefully implemented with little notice to the regular food sellers who routinely camp out in plain sight of the historical monuments. Many of the displaced vendors complained. However, their complaints were ignored.
According to reports, on arrival, President Obama is expected to proceed from the Norman Manley International Airport via helicopter to the Up Park Camp military base across town. Afterwards, he was to travel a short distance by road to his hotel in New Kingston.
Unfortunately, masses of Kingstonians wanting to get a glimpse of the first Black president of the United States will be denied the flag-waving greeting afforded British royals, the head of the Roman Catholic Church and HIM Emperor Haile Selassie I when they visited the island.
There for talks focusing on trade and energy on April 8 and 9, the reason for the visit has been questioned by opposition members curious as to whether Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller invited the leader for an official, state or working visit – two of which would require the president to be hosted by the country; meet with parliamentarians and also address the governmental body during a session.
Apparently more of a working visit, the brief stop will include a visit to National Heroes Park and a youth summit at the University of the West Indies.
At the Park where distinguished Jamaicans are buried and honored, the president will reportedly make that stop for a wreath-laying ceremony and is likely to see a memorial of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the island’s first national hero.
Undoubtedly, the issue of a pardon for the island’s first national hero will be part of a discussion. On a recent visit to New York, Simpson Miller hinted she might broach the topic when she meets with the leader.
The suggestion was received by diasporan Jamaicans with overwhelming approval and cheers.
Already proposed by Congressman Charles B. Rangel for consideration for a presidential pardon, the Garvey exoneration issue seems to have been ignored by more than one U.S. presidents.
According to reports, on April 9 the president will make the Park visit his final official stop before departing on Air Force One to the isthmus to attend the Summit of the Americas which ends April 11.
According to a statement, the two heads of governments will focus on security, trade and energy.
But Jamaicans at home and abroad have been buzzing about a long list of issues they believe should be addressed.
Among them: immigration, deportation, trade imbalance, marijuana, gay rights, lowering interest rates on loans, revised economic plan, the International Monetary Fund, an education exchange agreement, climate change, disaster readiness and other pertinent concerns.
Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the U.S. National Security Council, Ricardo Zuniga said the visit will provide an opportunity to commend the Jamaican government for their efforts in addressing the debt crisis.
“We’ll have an opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller about our strong support for Jamaica’s work to deal with a debt crisis and its strong performance over the last two years in working with the IMF, the World Bank and others to address that,” Zuniga said.
Former Jamaican Ambassador to the United States and Counselor for Jamaica at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Dr. Richard Bernal said “the visit of President Obama is a very positive development for Jamaica.”
“The visit is a critically important opportunity to convey to the president and his foreign policy advisors the issues of concern to Jamaica, and to reiterate the government’s commitment to continue to implement a very challenging economic program,” the IDB executive stated.
Allegedly, Michael Wattkis, secretary general for the Friends of Trelawny expressed a desire for the prime minister to ensure that the visit is more than symbolic. He said, he hoped that a concerted effort is made to foster greater social and economic opportunities between both countries.
“Thousands of Jamaican-American families live and work in the U.S.,” the New Jersey resident said.
“We love our adopted homeland. We love and support President Obama, and I am sure our nation will show him that same love, a love that will extend into a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.”
Ironically, the 33rd anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s visit to Jamaica on April 7, 1982 was recalled as one steeped in rebuking Cuba for their communist alliance with Russia.
On this visit, President Obama’s legacy will not be remembered as a platform to admonish Cuba, but perhaps one the most influential leader in the world will contemplate all he heard, saw and spoke during his first official visit to the island. Cuba will attend its first Summit of the Americas in Panama.
Reportedly, the prime ministers of Barbados, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago will address the summit on the topics “Competitiveness/Prosperity, Renewable Energy and Security.”
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