TODAY is International Credit Union Day. So there are celebrations all over the country to mark the day, and the entire week. But credit union members should be demanding more from their credit unions. Making a dividend, providing reasonable loans, health and housing benefits, as well as the many other facilities is not enough. There should be co-operation among co-operatives to provide jobs and to make commodities cheaper.
The National Union of Co-operative Societies should seek to establish a hotel or at least purchase shares in one of them. And to do this, the members should vote that a portion of the surplus (or profit) go to that purpose. And those who get jobs in the hotels should be obligated by contract to save something in the credit unions each month so that the members have a bigger loan portfolio.
The credit unions form part of the history of modern Jamaica, the beginning of which historians place at the year 1938. It was in 1938 that nationalism emerged, propelling several other movements including the credit union movement that was born in 1941.
In 1950 the credit unions and the other co-operatives, particularly those set up by Jamaica Welfare (now Social Development Commission) founded by National Hero Norman Washington Manley and the fishermen's cooperatives, were placed under one Co-operative Act. Service co-operatives co-operate with financial co-operatives (credit unions) all over the world, and this has been true to an extent in Jamaica as well. But again, there could be more.
In many countries, financial co-operatives and the service co-operatives are one and the same thing. Our credit union law is different, but co-operation among cooperatives should bring about greater services.
Our credit union movement started with the Young Men's Sodality of Holy Trinity (Roman Catholic) Cathedral. One of the pioneers of the Sodality Credit Union became governor of the Bank of Jamaica, the late George Arthur Brown. And G Arthur Brown should not be confused with the late Headley Brown, who was also governor of the Bank of Jamaica. Another pioneer was the late Paul Thompson, the former undersecretary in the Ministry of Housing.
Paul Thompson was the first president of the former Sodality Credit Union (now a part of COK Credit Union, which was renamed COK Sodality Credit Union in 2009) and second president of the GSB Credit Union (now merged with Churches Credit union and renamed First Heritage Credit Union in 2012). And Thompson engineered the Mountain Terrace Housing Co-operative on Mountain View Avenue (opposite Excelsior Education Complex).
And speaking of the former GSB Credit Union, one of the founders of that credit union — which existed for 66 years before merging with Churches — was Monsignor Stanley Shearer. Prior to becoming a Roman Catholic priest, Monsignor Shearer worked at the now defunct Government Savings Bank (GSB). The GSB Clerks Credit Union was founded by DV (Gerry) Smith, of which the young Stanley Shearer was a founding member.
Monsignor Shearer, a brother of the late Hugh Shearer, former prime minister of Jamaica (1967-72), was the pastor of Holy Rosary Church (1962-69 and 1998-2004). He also served as pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption (Morant Bay), rector of Holy Trinity Cathedral, pastor of St Joseph (Spanish Town), Stella Maris, and Holy Cross churches. Holy Rosary is located on Windward Road in Eastern Kingston, where Monsignor Shearer grew up. At 87 years old, he is now ailing and was unable to attend the recently concluded 100th anniversary celebrations of Holy Rosary Church. Holy Rosary also had its own credit union in the 1940s and 1950s.
We are also in National Heritage Week, which culminates on Monday, National Heroes' Day. As usual, there will be many awards handed out, some richly deserved, but some which leave people wondering what the person receiving the award achieved.
The biographies of the lives of our national heroes form the nucleus of the history of Jamaica since the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1494. The lives of those who received the lesser awards should be a fleshing out of that history. But unfortunately over the years the awards have not always been made with achievement in mind. Stories abound over the years that some actually asked for the awards; and that some who asked were indeed awarded.
The history of those who have made the national honours lists on the one hand and the co-operative movement on the other should point to the building of the country, both structurally and psychologically, in the widest possible sense. Both should point to the building of a sense of family, which is woefully lacking in Jamaica. In normal circumstances, the unity found in nations begins with the cohesiveness that is found in families. In Jamaica, we have to find alternatives in the virtual absence of the family structure. A great part of the problem in Jamaica is, sadly, a failure to unite; an unfortunate legacy from the days of slavery.