Editorial

Giving up Independence or death before dishonour?

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

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Around this time every year many Jamaicans become reflective, frequently asking what is the meaning of Independence. The views of some readers, as published in the Jamaica Observer's North and East publication yesterday, are quite instructive.

By and large the people giving their views on what is Independence say that the notion means little or nothing to them and Independence Day is “just another day”.

Indeed, while this is by no means a scientific study, it is very consistent with the position of large numbers of Jamaicans who have expressed their opinion over the years, including a 2011 survey which found that approximately 60 per cent “think the country would be better off today if it was still under British rule”, citing years of social and fiscal mismanagement in the country.

In fact, a more recent survey that was very much in line with the views on Independence said a majority of Jamaica's young people would love to migrate, especially to the United States, given the perceived lack of opportunities in their homeland.

It is not mere academic gymnastics to seek an understanding of what it meant in 1962 and still means today to be independent. The Jamaica Independence Act of 1962 suggests that 'Independence' means being responsible for one's self.

The Act clearly states: “As from the Sixth day of August, Nineteen Hundred and Sixty-two (in this Act referred to as “the appointed day”), Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom shall have no responsibility for the Government of Jamaica.”

We don't think it unreasonable to accept that we've not done a spectacular job of being responsible for ourselves. And even while there is sufficient evidence that Britain could have done much better by us, after 56 years we should be doing better by ourselves.

Ms Maisilyn Fuller expresses it well: “I was at the National Stadium when we got Independence. I was happy that day. Everybody was happy. I don't know if we needed Independence though, because we are not doing so well.”

As did Mr Mark Williams: “Independence nuh mean much to me. We're not independent; we're always depending on people for things. If we did independent we would produce more for ourselves.

“We wouldn't haffi import nuff a di basic goods weh we use every day. Mi nuh really a celebrate Monday. It just mean seh mi nuh have work. Mi just a take di day as a rest day; mi nah really celebrate nothing.”

Mr Carlton Henry's views are consistent: “…My understanding of Independence is, and I can be wrong, when you don't haffi rely pon certain country or depend on people; you can provide for your citizens. Jamaica nuh deh right deh so right now.”

Of course, there are large numbers of Jamaicans who are proud of living in an independent country and for whom any contemplation of dispensing with Independence is “death before dishonour”.

Whatever our views, we must all recognise that Jamaica has a long road ahead to achieving the stated goals of making our country the preferred place to live, work, do business, and raise families.

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