Sep 15, 2009, 5:44 AM
The residence of the British High Commissioner, at Cape Point, was on Monday 21st host to hundreds of people from different walks of life to mark the 82nd birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 is the longest serving monarch and is currently in her 57th year of her reign.
Speaking at occasion, Mr. Crispin-Grey Johnson, the Secretary of State for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, who represented the Gambian Government, maintained that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 is spanned by world events that have positive impacted on humanity, noting that it is when much of the African continent gained independence and joined the Commonwealth of Nations.
"Her Majesty's uniqueness also resides in the fact that she is the longest serving monarch today. As we celebrate her birthday, we must ensure that we safeguard the tradition that is part of our joint history. We also need to ensure that we remain steadfast to the ambitions that we have set ourselves in the co-operation efforts between our two governments and peoples", he remarked.
"Let me also use the opportunity to recognise the efforts by Her Majesty in leading the affairs of the commonwealth, for having worked tirelessly with member states in making our Commonwealth of Nations the enabled and relevant institution that it is today", said.
"While we welcome the positive strides registered under Her Majesty's leadership, we pledge our commitment to work hand-in hand to promote democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law and above all to overcome the daunting challenge of attainment of food self sufficiency, eradication of poverty and ignorance". He added.
He indicated that there are different types of partnerships, but Gambia's relationship with Great Britain is that of development and investment partnership.
"Development partners are not partners in a negative sense, or should be partners in a negative sense", he stated.
Speaking earlier, the British High Commissioner, Mr. Phil Sinkinson, said he had heard that Britain and the British people have not contributed and do not contribute sufficiently to The Gambia. He noted that this is not the case. He outlined many development ventures undertaken by Britain and the British people in The Gambia, just to name a few, the Bansang Hospital Appeal, spearheaded by Anita Smith, a project which he said has transformed the hospital particularly the maternity and children's facilities.
He added that Southland High School in the UK donated a modern solar water pump worth 27,000 pounds sterling to Bijilo Lower Basic School and are planning to construct a caretaker's house and also arranging for visiting lecturers from the UK to assist with studies.
"Then there is the excellent work undertaken by British based NGO's including Concern Universal, Sightsavers International (who treated over 80,000 people in The Gambia last year) and Action Aid," he said. The work of other prominent British organisations in The Gambia was also highlighted by Mr. Sinkinson. "The Medical Research Council undertakes livesaving research into respiratory illness as well as malaria and HIV/AIDS continues to provide an excellent service to the community," he said. He further highlighted the work of DFID which he said remains the largest bilateral donor in The Gambia. "Over the last year they have spent two million pounds continuing to support the financial governance programme, the education sector (BESPOR), the legal sector and strengthening civil society," he informed those gathered. Another NGO funded by DFID and singled out for particular praise by the High Commissioner was VSO. There are now 51 VSO volunteers working in The Gambia and the commissioner called for a round of applause from those gathered to show appreciation for the good work they do.
To further illustrate the genuine warmth that the people of Britain have for the people of The Gambia he cited the number of tourists from Britain that come to visit The Gambia. The figure is now approaching 60,000 every year. He added that there are now in excess of 3,000 British people who live in The Gambia on a permanent basis and 20,000 who return on a regular basis.
In conclusion the British High Commissioner said, "we look forward to continuing our efforts in the coming year to strengthen even further the friendship and co-operation that exists between our two countries."