from Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave
Fellow Barbadians at home and overseas,
It gives me great pleasure to address you at this time of the year as we are preparing to celebrate the birth of the infant Jesus who was born on Christmas Day some 2,000 years ago.
Christmas is a time for rejoicing and making merry as we with reverence and affection remember the events of the first Christmas, and contemplate the dawn of a New Year. The 25th day of December, Christmas Day, six days from the end of the year, provides us with an excellent opportunity for reflection on the events of the past year. We look back at our successes and failures, and commit to dedicating ourselves to our family, work and community as the New Year beckons. We thank God for the opportunity to do so.
The economic climate in Barbados and elsewhere has not been as we would have wished, but we look forward with hope for better days. From the reports coming out of our Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance, and elsewhere, it is clear that the economy of Barbados is far from healthy. Certain measures have just been announced by the Minister of Finance, in an effort to address this troubling situation. These are tough measures.
It is hoped that though they will be painful, that they are warranted in the circumstances, so that in due course, the desired results will be forthcoming, the economy will grow as a result, and our people will once more be able to enjoy the standard of living, to which they have become accustomed.
Many will find this Christmas season a difficult one, if they stand to lose their jobs, their homes, they are away from their families, or they have lost loved ones –– they will be in our thoughts and prayers, and here special reference is made to the families, friends and indeed all of South Africa as they mourn the passing of their hero, the illustrious, scholarly and gallant Nelson R. “Madiba” Mandela.
Frequently, we seem to measure happiness and success through the number of presents we give and receive, the size of our car and the cost of our designer clothing and indeed the size of our Christmas turkey. Christmas is not about material wealth. God could have chosen anyone to be the mother of his child and anywhere for the birth of his son, but he chose a lowly maiden, a lowly manger, in the little town of Bethlehem.
We would do well to remember that essential symbolism and the life of Christ. His message of humility, peace, hope, love and tolerance are as important now as it was then. In these straitened economic times, it is important to remember that Christ would want us to remember the poor, the infirm and the sick. He would want us to share what we have with those who do not have, not simply today but throughout the year.
We are thankful for our public workers and careers and our voluntary sector for helping those who may be less able to help themselves. These are guiding principles which teach us the importance of family, respect for others, and helping those less fortunate, irrespective of our background, politics or beliefs.
We are grateful that the hurricane season has passed and that Barbados and our sister islands in the Caribbean have been spared the devastation and dislocation of hurricanes and earthquakes. In Barbados we did experience heavy rains for prolonged periods which caused some damage, but we hope that the yield from our sugar and other crops will be the better for it.
Our hearts go out to victims of natural and other disasters throughout the world, in particular, the suffering masses of the Philippines, where thousands of citizens perished, and several thousands were left homeless, without food or clean water due to the damage caused by a monster typhoon.
At times like this, we see the best of the international community, with the more developed countries, able to co-ordinate relief efforts, and seek to assist in the immediate aftermath to save lives, and provide food and shelter at the start of a process of recovery, which will involve years of reconstruction.
It has been a busy year here at Government House. We were pleased to see our island once more hold peaceful elections, and welcome leaders of Government and the Opposition discharge their respective duties, in keeping with the best traditions of our democratic process.
One young student noted that the duties of the Governor General were mainly to visit old people. There is some truth to this! This year, on the 25th December, the number of centenarians I would have visited will number 27, and by the end of the year the total number of visits made will be 29; and on Old Year’s Day, I am scheduled to make two more visits.
These visits are always different, enjoyable and educational. For centenarians remember a time when Barbados did not chart its own destiny, and what we have overcome to reach our current levels of education and relative prosperity. They also remember their individual sacrifice, dedication and hard work.
My wife and I were in London in June this year; we were graciously received in a private audience by Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace. On June 28, I was invested with the insignia of a Knight Grand Cross Of The Most Distinguished Order Of St Michael and St George by His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales. Whilst in England, I had the opportunity to meet the staff of the High Commission and many Barbadians at a reception hosted by our High Commissioner. They were keen to hear news from home and it was good to meet our citizens who live abroad and are often the best ambassadors of our island home.
There were many functions for my wife and me to attend during the month of November, and now that the Independence Celebrations are over, we, like many Barbadians look forward to seeing family members from overseas. While celebrations may be somewhat less lavish than in bygone years we can all enjoy time with friends and family. Attending church and strolling in Queen’s Park on Christmas morning are traditional features of the Barbadian Christmas.
As we celebrate the birth of Christ, let us rededicate ourselves to the virtues of family life, humility, faith and love. The message of peace and goodwill towards all men is a universal one, which is shared by all peoples wherever they live, whatever their race or religion, and whatever their station in life.
Fellow Barbadians, at home and abroad, and visitors to our shores, on behalf of my wife and family, and on my own behalf, I extend to you very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. May Almighty God Bless you all, and permit his benign influence to fall upon you now and forevermore.