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His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo, President of the Republic of Guyana
His Excellency, Runaldo R. Venetiaan President of the Republic of Suriname and Chairman of the Caribbean Community
Other Heads of State and Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community
His Excellency Ricardo Lagos Escobar, President of the Republic of Chile
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds Ministers of Government Mr Speaker and Members of Parliament Ambassador Tatsuo Arima, Special Envoy of the Government of Japan
Other members of the Diplomatic Corps
Madame Chancellor and Members of the Judiciary
The Mayor of Georgetown
Heads of Regional and International Organisations
Former & present colleagues of the CARICOM Secretariat
Distinguished Guests
Residents of Liliendal – our neighbours
Representatives of the Media Ladies & Gentlemen

This is surely a day of rejoicing. Come join one and all in the celebrations and be glad in it. For on this day, the Government of Guyana has delivered in full on its promise, and the Caribbean Community has acquired a home – indeed a splendid home – for its Secretariat. This day, which will certainly go down in the annals of the history of our Community, is certainly a red-letter day!

As Secretary-General of the Community, I perceive myself as having a special and historical responsibility, to convey to His Excellency the President of Guyana, his government and the entire Guyanese nation, the grateful thanks and appreciation of the Caribbean Community. For me personally, I feel a particular sense of responsibility so to do. For, as fate would have it, not only was I present in 1976, when the original promise was made to provide the Secretariat with its own custom-built headquarters; but it is also well-known that throughout my entire mandate as Secretary-General of the Community, I have sought to pursue this goal as one of my highest priorities.

Now, I know not what goes on within the Councils of the Nation but in the pursuit of this priority objective, I must today publicly acknowledge, the unfailing sympathetic support I received from former Foreign Minister of Guyana, Hon. Clement Rohee, in helping to move this subject to the top of the national agenda and to keep it on the front burner as it were. We thank you Minister Rohee; the Community owes you a great debt of gratitude.

Others have made special contributions as well. I certainly cannot forget the contribution of former President Janet Jagan leading to the final decision to initiate the project, and the ceremony for the turning of the sod in February 1998. Recalling that ceremony, I am particularly pleased that the distinguished Prime Minister of Barbados, the Rt. Hon. Owen Arthur, who is present with us today, then skillfully shovelled his share of the sod. Prime Minister Arthur continues to contribute significantly to the completion of this historic project.

On the occasion of the ceremony for the turning of the sod, I did indicate my reticence to rejoice, expressing then my preference to await the turning of the key. Today, I have no such reticence and I again thank former President Jagan, for without that turning of the sod then, there would be no turning of the key today.

It is an open secret, that I have always seen the new secretariat building as being the centre of a new development thrust in the environs of Greater Georgetown. Thanks to the Government's far-sightedness in recognising the synergies which can flow from the proximity of the Secretariat to the University of Guyana as well as the potential of the nearby Ogle Airstrip, today we have the nucleus of a major development centre – not just for Liliendaal, our new community; not just for Guyana, our home country; not even just for the Caribbean Community; but for the entire region of the shoulder of South America and the Caribbean Islands.

Think, for example, of the prospect of a quick one hour or so flight from Port-of Spain, Caracas, Paramaribo, Bridgetown and northern Brazil, into and out of Georgetown, through an enhanced Ogle Airstrip; of the scope for holding conferences, meetings, business and other interactions using the new conference centre; the national University and our International Secretariat, and you will see the tremendous potential it gives to Guyana to be central to the next wave of hemispheric economic development in this Region. But these are serious thoughts, more appropriate for another time. Today is a day for rejoicing. In doing so, there are many to whom I must convey our deep thanks and gratitude:

    · Again, to the Government and People of Guyana for today's history making progress in the development of our Community; and through the Government of Guyana, our thanks to the Government and People of Japan for their decisive contribution to the financing of this magnificent edifice;

    · The early deliberations regarding the location of the headquarters was only successfully concluded through the generosity of GUYSUCO, which provided the land and literally and otherwise laid the foundation of the project. Our appreciation goes to them for another “sweet” contribution;

    · A special expression of thanks must also go to the Prime Minister of Barbados for the vital provision of a lift to enhance the utility and accessibility of the building;

    · Sincere appreciation to the Most Honourable P.J. Patterson, Prime Minister of Jamaica for his leadership role over the life of the Community and for his inspiration which has served to bring us to this happy moment.

    · Thanks to the indefatigable Sir Shridath Ramphal particularly for his contribution in those early and formative years of Community building and for his continuing service to the Region.

    · Few can lay claim to the construction of such magnificence, we wish therefore to convey our special appreciation to the architects, the principal constructing firm of Nabi and Sons and all the workers involved. This building is a proud advertisement of their collective skill and competence. They must have heeded the injunction of the psalmist that “except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it”. They certainly did not labour in vain and I am sure that whatever remains to be done, they will see to it; They must have been working hand in hand with the Lord.

    · Our grateful thanks to the Bank of Guyana for its generosity, having provided our headquarters over the first generation of the life of the Secretariat. Without this generosity, the Secretariat and the Community would have had a much more difficult beginning;

    · Finally, a special thanks is also due to the media for helping to keep this vital project on the national front burner.

Turning to the future, I extend in advance on behalf of the staff of the Secretariat, thanks to the People of the Caribbean, for the contribution we know they will be making to ensure that this home of the secretariat is made “culturally homely”. Its extensive walls anxiously await – and can more than adequately accommodate – their gifts of cultural artifacts reflective of the rich diversity of our Community's cultural heritage.

In similar futuristic vein, our thanks go to the Government of India which, as we speak, is in the process of providing assistance in equipping our Secretariat with very modern e-capabilities.

I cannot conclude my expressions of thanks, without addressing a special word of gratitude to the staff of the Secretariat, who over the years have with admirable selflessness and forbearance, adjusted themselves to many physical inconveniences to serve our Community. Staff, your patience, commitment and perseverance have today paid off and should serve as a lesson for the future progress we must achieve in this new more salubrious environment. No progress without sacrifice.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as we put today's development in the context of our Community's progress, we can all be proud that the year 2005 will see as well, not only the onset of the Single Market and Economy, but also the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice, and who knows what else.

To you Heads of Government – fresh from your labours in Suriname or perhaps weary there from – and setting your sights on Saint Lucia in July, you can therefore feel a sense of justification that your labours over the years have not been without fruit.

In closing, on behalf of my predecessors and indeed on my own behalf as Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, the honour has fallen to me and it is with a special sense of pride and joy that I welcome you all, Distinguished Ladies and Gentleman, to the Permanent headquarters of the Caribbean Community Secretariat.

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