Time now to start believing in ourselves

Sunday, July 29, 2012    

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The 50th anniversary of Independence is a time for celebration but, importantly, a time to ask deep questions about ourselves, particularly our achievements and failures during the period.

One very critical aspect of this exercise is to re-examine the symbols of our political sovereignty and the symbols that give expression to our uniquely Jamaican nationalism.

We can start by taking note that after 50 years of exit from British colonialism the nation is still encumbered by symbols inherited from our coloniser.

It is understandable that upon embarking on independence we, for the sake of continuity, retained some of the traditions, practices and symbols of the British system of governance. These things take time to be changed, especially for a newly independent country.

In any case, not everything inherited from the British needed to be discarded. Indeed, some of them had to be retained until our institutions and practices -- which were new to us and the world -- gained recognition and credibility. For example, it was necessary to continue to base some of our laws and institutions on British ones. No need to reinvent the proverbial wheel if it is not required. We all know by now that change for the sake of change is a waste of time and money.

The education system is a good illustration of the necessity for change. A decade after political Independence, certification of a high school-level education was the Cambridge 'O' and 'A' levels. We have since replaced these exams with Caribbean ones and mercifully abandoned the British syllabus which contained little about us and even less about Africa. The current syllabus blends Caribbean with international, ie, Shakespeare with Roger Mais.

We have symbols which are in urgent need of change to give meaningful expression to our sovereignty to Jamaicans and the world. We'll always have a special place in our collective hearts for The Queen, but it is time to have a Jamaican Head of State of Jamaica under a republic.

Along with this change must be the replacement of the United Kingdom Privy Council with a Jamaican or a Caribbean Court, preferably a regional court. Let's also get rid of the wool wigs that judges of the higher courts still wear. The highest accomplishment of the legal profession cannot, in this day and age, be Queen's Counsel. That says so much about us and it is not very complimentary.

We must all individually and collectively as nation rethink and change the symbols, systems, institutions and practices that are in contradiction to political Independence. To take one example: should we still divide the country into three counties and should they be named after English counties -- Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey? How about naming them after National Heroes Alexander Bustamante, Norman Manley and Marcus Garvey? Why three, why not four and the fourth called Marley? These divisions could be called municipalities or anything else we desire out of our own experiences.

If we are going to be a truly independent nation state, then we must use the 50th anniversary as an opportunity to rid ourselves of the vestiges and the symbols of colonialism which are the very antithesis of political Independence and sovereignty.

It is time we begin to truly believe in ourselves, in our worth, and in our innate genius as a people.





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