Important milestones in 2014

Michael BURKE

Thursday, January 02, 2014    

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Happy New Year to everyone! This year, 2014, marks 100 years since the start of the First World War and 75 years since the start of the Second World War. This new year is also 70 years since Jamaica attained Universal Adult Suffrage and self-government.

The first election under the widened suffrage took place on December 14 1944. The Jamaica Labour Party, led by Alexander Bustamante won that first election by a landslide. Of note is the fact that the chief protagonist for self-government in Jamaica, National Hero Norman Manley, the first president of the People's National Party, did not even win a seat in that election.

In Jamaica, there was a social ferment in 1938, which was part of the reason self-government came in 1944 and political independence in 1962. Originally, Britain had no intention of granting independence to any Indian, African or Caribbean colony, but had no choice when faced with the realities of war.

In reply to Mahatma Gandhi of India, Winston Churchill, as prime minister of Great Britain, stated that he "did not become His Majesty's first minister (at the time King George VI reigned) to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire". One would have thought that the words of the great Winston Churchill were irrevocable.

The First World War had its real genesis in 1862 when Otto Van Bismarck became the Chancellor of Prussia. He set about uniting Germany under Prussian leadership. He goaded Napoleon Bonaparte, the president of France, into a war to arouse enthusiasm for the German union. France lost, and parts of the French nation were allied to the Prussian Empire. This made France revengeful.

In 1890, the new Prussian Emperor, William II, dismissed Bismarck from the chancellorship. Under William's ministers, Germany strengthened its navy and acquired colonies. This angered England.

Emperor William II saw to the building of a railway to Turkey in order to have an all-German railway. In a situation like this there were a lot of ill feelings among the peoples throughout Europe.

In 1914, the Archduke of Austria Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated. This was the spark that started the First World War. In both world wars, Great Britain used residents of their colonies, so many Jamaicans fought in both wars.

In a real way, the Second World War was merely a resumption of the First World War. The world wars caused the development of the aeroplane way in advance of their inventors Orville and Wilbur Wright. After the Second World War aeroplanes were used for commercial flights all over the world and has improved travel across the world to the point where it is today.

Radios, telephones and computers were also improved upon. Unfortunately, so were guns and artillery in general. The end of the First World War did not stop the tension between Britain and Germany. In the 1930s Adolph Hitler wanted to widen the territory and control of Germany, which was the cause for the Second World War.

In 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour. The United States of America was content up to that stage to stay out of the European War and only fight Japan. But Japan made common cause with Germany and the USA was asked to make common cause with England and her allies.

According to the late Richard Hart, who died recently, the USA entered the Second World War on certain conditions. One condition was that Britain should grant self-government to their colonies. The USA was tired of having to go to Britain to trade with Jamaica and the other former British colonies.

Although Britain won both world wars, it was severely weakened by both wars. And, as a result of the war, England began to view the colonies as an unnecessary burden and expense. Apart from the fact that Jamaicans fought in both world wars, it was Jamaican ground provisions that fed the soldiers fighting on the side of British and their allies.

Norman Washington Manley won the military medal for bravery in the First World War. He also founded Jamaica Welfare in 1937 (now Social Development Commission), which would play an integral role in the Second World War.

Jamaica Welfare became Jamaica Social Welfare Commission during the war to be the means of gathering the food for the soldiers at war. It was Jamaican bananas, yams and other ground provisions that, in a real way, caused England and her allies to win the Second World War.

During the Second World War, meat was scarce in Jamaica, as it was with all imported items. So the dish known locally as either run down or dip and fall back was created out of necessity.

Commercial manufacturing in Jamaica started as a result of the war. The late Madam Rose Leon was the founding president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association. Beauty products could not be imported during the war so she developed her own.

In my opinion, it is a very sad reflection on the level of mental slavery in Jamaica at the time. Manufacturing started in Jamaica out of a need to ape European hairstyles for women, but that is the historical reality.

Madam Rose Leon was also a very colourful politician who was a member of both the JLP and the PNP. She was the second woman to attempt to form a political party in Jamaica, the first being Mary Morris Knibb in the early 1940s. Madam Leon was a minister of government for both political parties. She also served as deputy mayor of Kingston.

Madam Rose Leon's attempt at forming a political party came when she was expelled from the JLP in 1960. It did not last long and, like Mary Morris Knibb, she ended up running as an independent in the following election. Many older Jamaicans remember Madam Rose Leon's role in politics and in beauty culture. But very few remember Madam Leon's role as an inventor and as the founding president of the JMA.





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