CELEBRATED Jamaican pianist Orrett Rhoden, at the time of writing is refusing the Jamaican honour awarded to him. He is angry that he requested audience with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and all of his requests have been ignored. I thought that someone was assigned to reply to such correspondences and to set appointments if possible.
In 1969, the late Ian Ramsay returned his Queen's Counsel insignia because he believed that unworthy persons were being so awarded.
In the early months of 1973 Amy Jacques Garvey refused a pension from the Government of Jamaica because she had never been helped by anyone in the 33 years between Marcus Garvey's death in 1940 and that time in 1973. Mrs Garvey also spoke of having to raise her two sons on her own without any help from anyone. Amy Jacques Garvey died on July 29, 1973.
At the time of her refusal, Mrs Garvey was a writer in her own right. She had a long letter published giving suggestions. The first suggestion she made was that the pension money could be used to buy books on Garvey for placement in school libraries. Another suggestion was that the grave of Marcus Garvey in National Heroes Park should be kept properly.
To be fair to Michael Manley, he had only been prime minister for a year when he decided to award the surviving widows of national heroes a pension. So Amy Jacques Garvey's quarrel was really with Michael Manley's predecessors.
At the time, there were three widows of national heroes: Amy Jacques Garvey, Lady Gladys Bustamante and Edna Manley. To be fair also, none of the other widows of national heroes received pensions before the law was passed in 1973.
The Sunday Gleaner article had several persons responding online. Quite a few of those who responded spoke to having had the same experience in recent times even when they were offering services to Jamaica.
I recall my days working with the public sector company Community Economic Organisation (1979-81) that set up community co-operatives in the late 1970s. I was a community relations officer. On one occasion I was instructed to go into Worthy Park. A teenaged mother had written Michael Manley asking him for a job. He suggested that she got together with others to form a co-operative. The letter had been sent to my general manager, who in turn instructed me to deal with it.
I drove my Fiat 124 out to Worthy Park and turned off somewhere in the cane fields to find the humble abode of the young miss. As it turned out, she had no such interest, and asked me if I could get her "a nurse work". I asked her if she meant nurse maid or nurse in a hospital. She said, "nurse in a hospital".
I explained to her that she would first have to be trained and that she would have to have some "subjects" -- of which she had none -- before she entered nursing school. She was very surprised. But the point here is Michael Manley responded to her letter and took action, even though this one reached a dead end. And that was roughly 34 years ago.
There was a bird sanctuary in Anchovy, St James, run by a Miss Salmon until her death some years ago. In the summer of 1967, when I was 13 going on 14, my parents carried their five children to Montego Bay for a holiday. We went to Miss Salmon's bird sanctuary. While feeding birds she discovered that my father, Keith C Burke (now deceased) was the son of Rudolph Burke (also deceased). Miss Salmon proceeded to tell my father of having written letters to prominent people about some of her ideas and many thought it beneath their dignity to respond. She credited Rudolph Burke and Roman Catholic Bishop John McEleney (now deceased) as two of the few persons who responded to her letters. My point here is that, unfortunately, 'is long time dis ignoring of letters a gwaan'.
Eleven years later I went back to the bird statuary with Father Gerry Reid and a few Roman Catholic youngsters from Montego Bay. Miss Salmon was still complaining about something (that was her nature), but her point about people not responding to letters was well taken
The real problem with politicians of both major parties is that they seem
to measure everything according to whether it will make them win or lose the next election. So if responding to letters has no effect either way, many politicians do not bother to answer.
To get an idea across, one has to rouse public opinion. I have been arguing for years, for example, that December 26 should remain a public holiday, but that the name of the holiday be changed to National Family Day. It is the day when families get together in any case. The term Boxing Day is an insult in this day and age, but who cares? It will not affect elections, or so they think.
I am not recommending that we remove the December 26 holiday, you should never take away a holiday from people. God himself turned the Jewish Passover into the Lord's Supper and the Jewish corn festival, Pentecost, into the birth of the Christian church. Norman Manley changed Empire Day (May 24) into National Labour Day (May 23).