In the last weeks, I have had the responsibility as Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Bahamas to say farewell to a number of Ambassadors who have served their countries as Ambassadors to The Bahamas.  Earlier in the year, we said good bye to the Chinese Ambassador.  Last week, it was farewell to the High Commissioner for Canada and the Ambassador for Japan.

In each case, I was struck by the fact that each Ambassador was able to pronounce that the relations between our two countries are good, that there are no issues of concern between our countries.  It confirmed the public statement that I have made on a number of occasions since becoming Minister that The Bahamas has no enemies.

This evening, we say farewell to the United States Ambassador to The Bahamas.  The United States is by far our largest trading partner, and it is a country with which we have the broadest range of contacts.   This morning, it was my responsibility to meet with the Ambassador J. Richard Blankenship to accept the formal ceremonial notice of his farewell to The Bahamas.  In that meeting again, I was struck by the fact that there are no issues of note that divide us.  Again, I am proud to confirm the state of relations between the Bahamas and the United States is excellent, and I am able to confirm that The Bahamas has no enemies.

The second thing that struck me about all of the meetings that I have had with departing envoys, and it struck me again, is the fondness that all of envoys have expressed for The Bahamas upon their departureófondness not only for the work that they were called upon to perform, but also for the people of The Bahamas.  Each in their turn have left or are leaving the country with fond memories and with the feeling that they have left The Bahamas a better place for their having worked within our shores.  That message was reaffirmed in my meeting again this morning.

To say that Ambassador Blankenship will leave with sand in his shoes is to understate the connections with The Bahamas, having been a frequent visitor to this country since 1967, and now having had the distinction of serving as Ambassador over this relatively brief period.  This evening then is not good bye but farewell.

During his tenure in The Bahamas, the range and intensity of contacts between the United States and ourselves on a number of issues increased.  The rise in drug interdictions increased. The work began in earnest on the comprehensive maritime agreement between the two countries. There was increased cooperation on migrant issues.   There was an increase in both formal and informal contacts with the United States Government.  In so many areas, we are able to pick up a telephone and accomplish many of our mutual goals.

On the less formal side, the work in assisting in anti drug education, in assisting the work to fight HIV/AIDS, and the Ambassadorís wifeís interest and assistance to the Bahamas Humane Society and the health of animals in our country are well known.

On some subjects, we agreed to differ, but that is so in any mature relationship, and we move on.  What remains is a bedrock relationship between two countries that does not turn on personalities but turns on mutual dependence and respect. That has been strengthened by the Ambassadorís tenure.  Just this morning, I received a letter from the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, thanking The Bahamas for our work on issues that include Cuba, Haiti and drug interdiction.  I was able to speak with the Secretary of State no so long ago about some of our concerns and to thank him personally for the continued engagement in the Haitian issues, which The Bahamas considers in the best inertest of both countries.

And so Mr. Ambassador as you take your leave, may I ask you to convey as a last official duty once more to President George Bush and the Secretary, the expressions of the respect of the Bahamian people for your country.  We appreciate all the help that has been given to this country.  Your service as Ambassador comes soon to an end, but I am certain that given your energy, there is plenty more public service to come.

The Bahamas thanks your country and you.  We wish you and you wife well in private life and say bon voyage.

May I ask you to raise your glasses in a toast to The President and people of the United States of America.