Columns

Last day of Emancipendence octave

Michael BURKE

Thursday, August 07, 2014    

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All by myself, I say prayers of thanks for eight days for all who made Emancipation and Independence possible, and I have been doing this from 2010.

In Roman Catholic circles eight days of prayer is called an octave, while nine days of prayer is called a novena. I begin my private and unofficial Octave of Emancipendence on July 31, the eve of our Emancipation and end on the day after political independence August 7.

And today being the last day of the octave, the prayers today are about how much we have achieved in our 52 years of political Independence. The intention is to start a movement in which groups gather across the country in their respective churches to do the prayers. Hopefully, I will get around to organising this by next year.

Each day of the octave I cover different topics in chronological order. These include the anxiety for freedom on the eve of Emancipation, the apprenticeship period before full Emancipation in 1838, the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865, and the changes that came as a result of that. I also cover Marcus Garvey, Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante, self-government, political independence, and the post-Independence era.

As a result of the Morant Bay Rebellion, in which the tyrannical Governor Sir Edward John Eyre slaughtered some 900 persons, there was a Royal Commission of Enquiry. Governor Eyre was a casualty of that enquiry, as he was sent back to England in disgrace. Certain recommendations were made and a new governor, Sir John Peter Grant, was appointed to make certain structural changes.

The Rio Cobre irrigation scheme was built, the Marescaux Road reservoir was built, Bellevue (psychiatric) Hospital (originally known as the Asylum) was established, the Kingston Public Hospital was built, and an up-to-date police force was established. The problem was that the police force was established to ensure that the poor peasants would never again rise up against the white planter class. Although we are now 52 years politically independent, I am not sure how much the training of police has changed, apart from coming in line with technological advancements.

Two weeks ago, I seemed to have touched a nerve with one person who responded in the Jamaica Observer online. I wrote about the police shooting at the rally at the Stadium for Mandela, and that I 'cotched' in a seat with Jennifer Edwards, then the mayor of Spanish Town, who recognised me from my columns in the defunct Jamaica Record.

The writer asked if I was writing about Mandela or giving a history of police brutality and remarked that I had failed miserably on both counts. On the contrary, the fact that he wrote about it showed that I had succeeded on both counts.

He further stated that I should have gone the way of the Jamaica Record. I take it that I should have died at the same time that the Record became defunct and that the mayor should have left thumb tacks on the seat.

Is the writer a policeman or was he ever in the force? Did he have anything to do with the shooting incident at the rally for Mandela 23 years ago? Whatever the correct answers might be to my queries, it is quite clear that, in writing about the matter, he does not think I should still be up and about this side of the grave.

While there is a history of police brutality almost everywhere in the world, we in Jamaica need to change the training of the police force so that they will have a different mindset while carrying out their duties. But this should be accompanied by a values and attitudes programme for all of our citizens, because we have a crime problem that goes back to the time of the pirates.

The criminal pirate Henry Morgan was made governor of Jamaica to control piracy, and he did this by selling land cheaply to the pirates who became the aristocrats. And, from that time onward, we have had a problem with crime and violence. This was exacerbated since the time of the establishment of the political parties in preparation for self-government. Today, violence is mostly not political.

I have stated time and again that I am a Norman Manleyist, but not a member or a supporter of any political party. I am not my brother, who is in one political party, and I am not my first cousin, who is in another. I repeat: I believe that the greatest difference between the political parties is in the spelling. Earlier this year, one writer asked how I could be a Norman Manleyist when he gave us such a backward constitution.

Norman Manley, as all the leaders of former colonies aspiring for independence did, made sure that the constitution would not be so radical as to cause the British not to grant the Independence. Norman Manley, as far as I know, had the intention of changing the constitution had he been elected prime minister of Jamaica. But, as it turned out, the Jamaica Labour Party won the April 10, 1962 General Election and Sir Alexander Bustamante was sworn in as premier and became prime minister on August 6, 1962.

On this the last day of this octave, when I focus on the post-Independence era, I recognise we are not fully emancipated from mental slavery. One manifestation of this is the widely held opinion that Jamaica was better off under The Queen. Some speak about the Caymans, which have made certain economic advancements as a colony.

However, Cayman is not a crown colony but a self-governing colony, as Jamaica was in the years leading up to Independence. One writer from Grand Cayman stated that the only thing that England does for them is to pay the governor, and that most of the Cayman Islands' advances have come about since the Caymans achieved full self-government.

Last week, I wrote about the Jesuit contribution to our development in my column, which was headlined 'Loyola and Emancipendence'. I omitted the fact that a Jesuit led the construction of the first-ever housing scheme in Jamaica at Homestead in Bamboo, St Ann, in the 1940s.

ekrubm765@yahoo.com

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