Tribute to Norman Manley

Louis EA Moyston

Saturday, July 14, 2012    

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There are some Jamaicans from our recent past whom we cannot afford to forget. Norman Manley is one such Jamaican. The quiet approach to his birthday celebrations and the mild application of those activities imply that he is a forgotten man. This year is of special importance to the legacy of Norman Washington Manley. Minister Hanna in her address at the "Floral Tribute" spoke of the convergence of the man and the time: Manley and the time of independence and his birthday and its convergence with the 50th anniversary celebrations. I extend the "convergence" to cover Manley's birthday celebration in the year of the Olympics. He led the founding of the Jamaican Olympic Association. His legacy is important to all of Jamaica. We must overcome this attitude of neglect for our history in order to appreciate where we are today against the background of our past.

I was reminded of his birthday on the very morning of the event. Right away it struck me that the 50th anniversary of the Independence of Jamaica is a very special moment for me and Norman Washington Manley. There were no special articles by political organisations and political leaders recognising and highlighting Manley's anniversary. There is a sort of neglect of history, a lack of appreciation of the past by those who see themselves and the present as the world.

There are some major areas of contradiction in Manley's political career, especially some at Independence, but those issues can be dealt with at another time. Manley has made a great contribution to party politics, political organisation and the idea of democracy. He was one of those thinking people in politics who saw public policy and a political career in the interest of people and society and not as a route to personal aggrandisement and wealth. He articulated the position of groups such as the Jamaica Progressive League and the National Reform Association in the call for and emergence of self-government for Jamaica from 1938-1944. It was against this background that he was prepared to lead the initiatives for the thrust for Independence at the fall of the Federation. More than any other leader of the period of Independence, Manley verbalised the meaning of Independence as a basis for the development of a new political thinking in Jamaica.

My grandmother onsidered the name Norman Washington Manley to be synonymous with education. She said to me as a very young boy, "Follow the political leader that is educated." That was my introduction to the political leader. His contribution to education and modern Jamaica is gigantic. He saw education as the basis of progress for the new Jamaica; and that teachers should be leaders of their communities and also leaders of social change in their professional roles. Out of his education and training polices, youth training centres in various fields emerged throughout the island. This laid the foundation for a modern technical and vocational system of education.

Norman Manley played a trailblazing role in community development. Each time I drive through Porus and see that monument, the Community Hall, one of the lasting features of his welfare society movement, I say: "I hope this building is still in use." He inspired Jamaicans of all educational levels to volunteer in his social welfare scheme of community development, trade training and literacy. He looked at the critical importance of community organisations as transformative sites in the society. Similarly, he designed the group as the smallest cell in the political party; one for each polling division, and it must be the eyes, the ears and the mouth of the party. He had great ideas and was able to put some of those ideas into practice.

Norman Washington Manley was a pioneering and visionary political leader. He contributed to our great tradition in secondary sports with his Olympic qualifying time in the 100 yards at Jamaica College. He has made a monumental contribution to the development of several sporting bodies in Jamaica, including the Jamaica Olympic Association. He inspired the development and building of the National Arena and the National Stadium in the midst of fierce national political opposition. I know that Arnold Bertram will agree with me that Norman Manley is one of the great examples of a Jamaican who raised himself from the ground upwards. He lived with his mother and did very hard work to support himself and his family. We have a poor respect for history in this country. Some people do not like to hear the word, while others fail to explore it. Manley was not alone in his struggles. I hope we will use this anniversary to explore his life and the lives of others, especially those from below who made a great contribution to the building of modern Jamaica.





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