New citizens embrace Jamaicaness - Wynter: Add value to great J'can legacy
Minutes after the swearing in of 30 foreign nationals as Jamaican citizens at the Police Officers' Club on Hope Road in St Andrew, Nigerian-born Oluwafunke Bayesha was celebrating her new status, having lived here for nine years.
"This right here means that I can finally call Jamaica home," she said, clutching her citizenship certificate. "I always felt Jamaican, but now I can legally go everywhere and be like, 'I'm Jamaican' because it's actually documented, and it just really feels exciting and I'm really grateful."
Bayesha, accompanied by her dad, explained that when her mom, who first came to Jamaica, called home to ask about the rest of the family's interest in trying out a new environment, America and England were the places of choice that came to mind. She, along with her siblings and her father, were, however, pleasantly surprised, upon arrival.
Dream come true
"When we got here, the people were nice, the food the culture and the vibe ..." she reminisced. Her father, whose application for citizenship is being processed, was overjoyed.
"I feel so happy. It's like a dream come true, and it's lovely to be Jamaican because it's like home away from home. We really love it out here," he gushed.
For fellow Nigerian native David Adeoye and daughter Blessing, their joy was mixed with relief.
"Anything Jamaicans are entitled to, as a citizen, I am entitled to now. Just last month I went to renew my work permit, and I am not going to have to do anything like that again. So I can just work. I am a citizen now, so there is no need [to apply to] PICA (Passport, Immigration and Citizen Agency) or the labour ministry because my work permit has expired," Adeoye explained.
A nurse by profession, David Adeoye has lived in Jamaica for the past six years. His daughter, a student at a tertiary educational training institution, has been resident for four years. "International students have to pay extra [fees], but now, going to university is going to be easier and cheaper as a citizen," she pointed out.
Sangeeta Sharma, who responded on behalf of the group, highlighted the fact that having lived in Jamaica for the past 18 years, she has been an unofficial ambassador. Asked many times why she relocated to Jamaica, her answer has always been the same.
"I have never met a set of people as helpful, as loving, as warm as Jamaicans."
Sharma added that she felt privileged to wake up in an island paradise that people from all over the world pay thousands of dollars to visit only for a time.
Andrew Wynter, chief executive officer of the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency, speaking yesterday at the swearing-in ceremony for several naturalised citizens, welcomed the group and charged them to add value to the great Jamaican legacy.
"This step you have taken shows just how much you have embraced Jamaica as your new home, and we look forward to you joining the fold to build our great country with your continued contribution and commitment to Jamaica's growth and development," Wynter told the group.
Advising that they now enjoy the same rights and privileges of anyone born in Jamaica, Wynter urged them to respect and treat these well.
Jamaica, on Monday, celebrated 56 years of political independence, and Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang reminded the audience of a major achievement consistent with its motto 'Out of Many, One People'.
"We celebrate a legacy of tolerance and inclusion and observance of international rights and freedoms," Chang stated.