Tales for the 'young in the business'

Michael BURKE

Thursday, February 20, 2014    

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TODAY marks 77 years since the establishment of the Public Opinion newspaper that folded in the 1970s. Established by Osmond Theodore Fairclough in 1937, the newspaper became the organ of the movement that fought for self-government and political independence. Tomorrow (February 21) marks 47 years since the general election of 1967, which resulted in Donald Sangster being sworn in as prime minister the following day. It is these two milestones that I reflect on today.

Norman Manley never saw himself as the founder of the People's National Party (PNP), and indeed he was not. Many persons, including myself, see Fairclough as the real founder of the PNP. And those who do so base their opinion on the fact that it was O T Fairclough, who died in 1970, who brought the various groups together.

There are some who see the late Ken Hill as the real founder of the PNP because he was the founder and president of the National Reform Association (NRA) in 1935. But while the NRA was certainly the forerunner of the PNP, the NRA did not evolve into the PNP. There were other groups and individuals, including first PNP president Norman Manley, who were never a part of the NRA.

The culmination of these groups into the PNP, which included the trade unions, into a nationalist movement in 1938, signalled the start of the formal fight for self-government and political independence. Alexander Bustamante was on the platform in the Ward Theatre when the PNP was formed in September 1938. In 1942, Bustamante resigned from the PNP and established the Jamaica Labour Party in 1943.

Donald Sangster as prime minister signalled a changing of the guard from Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley to the younger generation. Indeed, when Sangster died and Hugh Shearer — a man the age of the elder Manley's sons — became prime minister, the elder Manley realised that it was time to make his exit from politics. His son, Michael Manley, succeeded him.

Sangster was prime minister for 48 days, until April 11, 1967 when he died. [Andrew Holness served for 74 days, and therefore Donald Sangster is still Jamaica's shortest-serving prime minister. Political analysts, radio talk show hosts et al, update your journals.]

Proxy Practice

Similarly, in the last seven years or so, I have written twice that I suggested that Portia Simpson Miller go abroad herself to negotiate because many foreign presidents and prime ministers only like to talk to presidents and prime ministers. I mentioned the case of then Prime Minister Hugh Shearer sending Robert Lightbourne to see French President Charles de Gaulle and not being able to see him because de Gaulle did not speak to anyone below the rank of prime minister.

As far as I am concerned, both Shearer and Lightbourne, indeed the entire Cabinet of the day, could be forgiven then because Jamaica in the 1960s was 'young in the business' of political independence.

Some have been talking as if one can simply make a phone call and get a big loan from a country. I have heard that Opposition Leader Andrew Holness said that the prime minister could have delegated someone to go on those trips. Do you mean to tell me that no one in the JLP could tell Holness, who was not yet born in the 1960s (he was born in 1972), about what happened between Lightbourne and de Gaulle? Does Holness realise how many ordinary Jamaicans said that he was talking nonsense? One person gave the analogy of the managing director of a gasoline company calling the gas station managers together and one of them sending a pump attendant to represent him or her.

And say what you like about Bruce Golding, but when he was prime minister had he need to negotiate for money for schools, he was not going to send his Education Minister Andrew Holness to negotiate with a president or a prime minister, without being there himself.

And I am sure that had Sangster lived to a ripe old age — he would be 103 in October 2014 — he would have passed on tons of advice about negotiating for trade and loans in foreign countries seeing that Sangster was part of the early post-Independence negotiating teams. And Shearer, had he been alive, would caution the next generation about what happened to Lightbourne when he visited de Gaulle.

PS: Thanks for the biggest- ever feedback I have had on Jamaica Observer online for my article entitled "25 years since Michael Manley's return". As expected, many who responded hold rabid and emotional anti-Michael Manley positions. All I tried to do on the silver anniversary of Manley's return was to expand on the circumstances in which Michael Manley shelved his socialist beliefs despite remaining a socialist to the very end. As I have written before I am a Norman Manleyist and I hold socialist views that are in line with the social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. I do not hold the view (and never did), for example, that Michael Manley should be a national hero. I am of the view that a national hero's life as a father and husband should be exemplary. And I have explained many times over the years that, as far as I am concerned the major difference between the PNP and the JLP is in the spelling. Can you imagine that had the PNP won in 2007 and won the election after that they would have been in power now for 25 years straight? That would certainly not have been good for Jamaica to have any political party to be ruling so long without a change.





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