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More reflections on 50 years of Independence

Ken Chaplin

Tuesday, August 14, 2012    

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IN the first two columns, "Reflections on 50 years of Independence", the provision by the People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party governments to critical social services like education, health and housing and how these were outpaced by the rapid population increase from 1,627,414 in 1960 to 2,709,291 in 1911 was discussed.

The large number of people living below the poverty line, bad roads which held back economic development, corruption in government projects and the rise of women in the commercial banking system were also highlighted. The figures for public housing development were unavailable then but they have been forwarded since by the National Housing Trust (NHT). The data on how many primary and secondary schools were built during the period are unavailable.

In this the third and final column, I will cover public housing development since the NHT, a state agency, was established in 1976 by the PNP government and the phenomenal rise of women in the judiciary.

First, let us look on the vision and mission statements of the NHT. The vision is to be the role model among the world's leading housing finance institutions, delivering affordable housing solutions in a service culture, with professional staff serving customers with integrity and excellence. The mission is to be "effective stewards, caring for our contributors as we deliver housing solutions, build communities, refund contributions and influence the market to make housing more affordable".

Against this backdrop, the NHT has tried hard to meet the housing needs. Since its establishment the agency has built 42,544 houses, provided 7, 897 serviced lots and given 166,376 loans to contributors, valuing $150,000 billion. The NHT has also provided interim financing for 200 developments.

Women dominate Supreme Court

Having been a court reporter prior to Independence, it is my view that justice to some extent was not delivered in many instances to the working class. Sir Colin McGregor was Jamaica's first chief justice and a tough one. He was the judge who blasted and dismissed the jury from serving again in a celebrated sex case. His words and action angered Jamaicans across the country. Some people felt Sir Colin was viewing the matter from a class perspective. In this case the chauffeur of a prominent businessman was on a sex charge involving the wife of the businessman.The jury arrived at a not-guilty verdict. Most people and The Gleaner in an editorial felt that having regard to the burden of evidence this was the only verdict that could have been reached. But Sir Colin did not think so. There was a great deal of disappointment across the country over Sir Colin's remarks and punishment of the jury.

Women have dominated the Supreme Court since Independence. There was Ena Allen, the first woman Supreme Court judge to be appointed and Madge Morgan, the first woman Appeal Court Judge. Ena Collymore-Woodstock was the first woman Resident Magistrate. Today there are 14 Supreme Court and Appeal Court judges who are women, including Chief Justice, Zaila McCalla. She is a strong, solid jurist, defender of justice, and fair and impartial - critical attributes in assessing the quality of a judge. She ranks with many of the chief justices and is rated higher than most.

A few Jamaican Supreme Court judges and Appeal Court judges have erred from time to time over the 50 years of Independence, but the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Jamaica's final appellate court, based in London, was there to see that justice was served. However, the cost of appealing to the Privy Council is high and only a few cases reach London.

Usain Bolt

Every century produces a great athlete. In the 20th century it was Mohammed Ali, the super-American heavyweight world champion. In this the 21st century, the world has produced so far the Jamaican super sprinter, Usain Bolt. Incidentally, one thing they have in common is self-praise, although some people think you should not praise yourself. But this has helped to build confidence and self-esteem in both men.

Bolt became perhaps the greatest sprinter of all time at the London Olympics which ended last Sunday. Bolt has earned his legendary status despite the view of President of the International Olympics Committee Jacques Rogge that he is an icon and not a legend. Rogge seems to have a dislike for Bolt as in the previous Olympics four years ago, he criticised Bolt for beating his chest and merrymaking on the track after victories in the 100-metre and 200-metre races. Any athlete over a short period of four years who won six Olympic Gold Medals and set six world records must be regarded as a legend and deserving of a monument at the National Stadium. He has also anchored the Jamaican 4 x 100m relay team to victory in the 2008 Olympics and repeated this feat in London with Yohan Blake, Nesta Carter and Michael Frater in the world-record time of 36.84 seconds. Also, Bolt has scored unprecedented 200-metre victories twice at consecutive Olympics. No other sprinter has ever done that.

The team gave Jamaica its best performances in Olympics, winning 12 medals - four gold, four silver and four bronze. Both the Government and the Opposition went wild over our performance. However, Government support for sports has not been impressive over the years, and hopefully it will put more investment into sports from now on. Two years ago I sought assistance from the Sports Development Agency to help a promising schoolgirl lawn tennis player participate in a tournament overseas. I received no acknowledgement for the letter. The schoolgirl went to Miami and performed well.

Downside to Olympics

On the downside to the Olympics, the Jamaican team management were lacking in foresight when they allowed Asafa Powell and Jermaine Gonzales to compete, having regard to their physical condition of which the coaches were well aware. When sportsmen are not 100 per cent fit, you do not let them compete, especially in a relay. It takes years for the injuries which Powell and Gonzales have to heal totally, if ever. Pressure on the injured muscles during a race is built up and can lead to collapse.

In another incident, Melaine Walker did not seem to be trying in the 400 hurdles as we know she can. She appeared to have been disoriented.

Superb coverage

The Jamaican media did a superb job of covering the Olympics, the best in 50 years. They not only covered the events well, but the human interest stories were of a high calibre.

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