Letters to the Editor

More work to advance our post-Emancipation project as a nation

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

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Dear Editor,

The recently held 25th anniversary presentation of the Churches' Emancipation Lecture is to be highly commended. Rev Dr Burchell Taylor who along with Rev J Oliver Daley pioneered the annual emancipation lecture are to be commended. Through their representation Emancipation Day was restored to national prominence.

I also commend Tracy Robinson, senior lecturer, Faculty of Law, The University of the West Indies, Mona, whose erudition and thought-provoking lecture has given us much food for thought.

The focus of this year's emancipation lecture was 'From the 'chattel house' to the 'family home' — property and law after emancipation'. In the lecture, Robinson looked at some of the ways Caribbean laws and judges have been rethinking what and where is “home” and who is entitled to it. She limited her focus from the post-Independence discussions about whether moveable wooden houses were 'chattels' or fixed to the land to the relatively new concept of joint ownership of the 'family home' which applies to spouses. She rightly observed that, “These various legal developments remind us that after Emancipation, questions of property, personhood, family and home remain interlinked concerns for us today.”

For me, one of the most intriguing aspects of the lecture is the view that: “Property law is not static; it is dynamic and evolving and it should be dialogic.” Aside from the implications of such a view on the Property Rights of Spouses Act (PRSA) of 2004 which the lecture explored, my mind raced to a few other issues.

How is such a view of property law to impact the national dialogue on squatting, the redevelopment of downtown Kingston, the development of Heroes' Circle and the implications for the nearby communities, the persistent poor state of housing in downtown Kingston, and those for whom money and morals are no barrier to the temptation to land grab?

The 2010 census reported that some 31,439 households were identified as squatted units. This amounts to approximately one-third of our people!

We are not short of wonderful words in this country and you will hear lots more in the usual Emancipation and Independence messages. My hope is that meaningful dialogue at every level will lead us to take decisive and practical actions that will advance our post-Emancipation project as a nation. Without tangible actions, clothed in the fierce urgency of now, it seems our reflection on the lesson and legacy of Emancipation is likely to be more sour than sweet like tamarind.

Rev O J Morrison, JP


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