FOND FAREWELL: Ms Assamba is pictured with Wade Lyn, Honorary Consul (left) and hot sauce entrepreneur Levi Roots.
JAMAICA’S OUTGOING High commissioner to the UK, Ms Aloun Ndombet Assamba has been described as the ‘People’s High Commissioner’ for her tireless work in embracing all sections of the Diaspora community during the four years of her tenure at the Mission in London.
The accolade was given to her by Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplin to the House of Commons, as she paid tribute to Ms Assamba during a farewell dinner on April 22 hosted by businesses and community groups at the Forum Holiday Inn hotel, south-west London.
Revd Rose recalled the first function Ms Assamba hosted at the High Commission after she arrived in the UK in May 2012 when she declared that “the Mission was opened to everyone” and it was a promise she lived up to which has endeared her to so many people. Revd Rose also praised her for embracing the clergy from all different traditions and involving them in all discussions to do with Jamaica’s interest. Revd Rose finished by saying Ms Assamba will be truly missed by the Jamaican community.
Ms Nyree Chambers, head of marketing for Grace Foods UK, praised the High Commissioner for always finding time in her busy diplomatic schedule to visit the Jamaican businesses in the UK and lend assistance to the many events supported by the business community. Ms Chambers listed the values she has come to associate with Ms Assamba as forthright, charismatic, passionate, relentless, supportive, kind and caring all of which has made her an inspiration to the Jamaican businesses.
LADIES NIGHT: Ms Assamba (centre) is joined by the Dame Karlene Davis DBE (left) and the Mayor of Croydon Councillor Patricia Hay-Justice
Mr Wade Lyn, Honorary Consul of Jamaica in Birmingham, highlighted Ms Assamba’s diplomatic achievements including winning the 2016 Grassroots Diplomat Policy Driver Award for efforts in getting a change to the APD airline tax for Caribbean destinations.
Mr Leighton Smith, Victoria Mutual Building Society’s Chief Representative Officer, speaking on behalf of the Jamaican financial institutions in the UK, described Ms Assamba as a trail-blazing Jamaican woman who has worked hard to encourage interaction between the financial institutions and the Diaspora and vice versa.
He noted that it was the High Commissioner and her staff which has worked tirelessly to make the job of the financial institutions – VMBS, JNBS and NCB – much easier as they engage with the Diaspora around the UK. He also spoke of her strong belief in Jamaica’s development by focusing on initiatives in areas of trade and investment and involving the Diaspora in these discussions.
Also giving a farewell tribute from the community was Ms Pauline Lewis, President of the Jamaica Nurses Association UK, who said Ms Assamba will be fondly remembered for her determination to travel to the far reaches of the UK to visit the various Jamaican community associations and groups, despite any weather conditions. Her professionalism and dedication to the welfare of Jamaicans whether young, middle age and senior were evident for all to see, especially her passion to evolve the third and fourth generation, Ms Lewis said.
In responding to the many tributes paid to her, Ms Assamba immediately singled out the staff of the Mission because “if it wasn’t for their professionalism and dedication to work, I would not have been able to carry out my duties as High Commissioner so effectively,” she said.
Ms Assamba also paid tribute to Wade Lyn and the other volunteers at the consul office in Birmingham for the great work in serving the community in the midlands and the north which allows the Mission to serve more people.
She gave this one wish to the various group leaders: “I would ask each and everyone to encourage members of the UK Jamaican community to pay attention to what is happening within their localities and also at home in Jamaica and not to only come together when they are cheering a ‘Usain Bolt win’. Many times when we want the community to be involved in serious issues they cannot be found,” she said.
PACKED HOUSE: A section of the audience at the farewell dinner for High Commissioner Aloun Ndombet Assamba
Ms Assamba also warned that the UK Jamaicans were not as engaging in the civic activities of local government like previous generations and this was something they should not concede to. “Without your voices being heard at the business end of the table, you will not be able to influence decisions which will affect you and your community. Some councils are taking back properties which have housed community centres since the 1950s and this is a major problem communities now face.”
Ms Assamba received tremendous applause from the audience when she ended by saying her job here at the outset was to raise the profile of Jamaica and hoped she was able to have done that successfully as she now heads for home.
There were many gifts presented to Ms Assamba including one from Ms Annette Levy, chairman of the Jamaica Society in Reading and from Ms Deloris Cooper, director of VMBS.
Entertainment on the night included performances from legendary entertainer Count Prince Miller who dedicated two of his songs to the High Commissioner, Saxophonist Lascelles James and poetry from Ms Linda Hudson. Emcee for the evening was Dame Karlene Davis DBE.