Mr Sameer Younis engraved his name in history through service

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

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If the concept behind the Jamaican motto Out of Many, One People is broken out, the shining stories of the patriot-pioneers will include those of the Lebanese Jamaicans, like businessman extraordinaire Mr Sameer Younis, OJ.

Mr Younis passed away on Sunday, September 1, 2019, aged 77, leaving a legacy which cements not only his contribution to the building of Jamaica, but that of the Lebanese who taught a fledgling country how to commerce.

When the time comes, those who will write the history of modern Jamaica will write that Sameer Younis was a man who gave and gave hard. Not handouts, mind you, because he did not believe in that.

“I don't give a man a fish, I teach him to fish,” he once told an interviewer, at a time when he was known to be giving 40 hours per week, a full work week for most, to a variety of initiatives that ran from street cleaning to inner-city development.

He was not shy about his reason for giving back, admitting openly that he had made money, lots of it, in Jamaica and could not ignore the poverty and deprivation he saw around him daily as he traversed the country.

Like many of his ilk, academia was not for him a lure. He attended Wolmer's Boys' School and then the University of Michigan in the United States, but returned home a year-and-a-half later to work with his father, saying he was not getting anywhere with his studies.

On October 10, 1970, he struck out on his own to establish his now famous Fabric de Younis. The politically turbulent 1970s were good years financially for Mr Younis who diversified from being a merchant to a garment, textile and chemical manufacturer.

He was the first person to have held (separately) the jobs of president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the umbrella organisation of merchants in 1986, and president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, which groups the island's manufacturers, in 1996 notable because these were two organisations which were perpetually squabbling over who was getting more of the fatted calf of the Jamaican economy.

He will be remembered for his “Clean As A Whistle” campaign in Kingston and St Andrew which inspired the formation of the Government's Metropolitan Parks and Markets and later the promulgation of the Anti-Litter Act.

His People Against Road Accidents lobbied tirelessly for the seatbelt law, the traffic ticketing system and breathalyser tests. His credits also include the exciting Junior Achievement Programme in which older school children were taught to set up businesses.

But it is for the November 1990 establishment of the Inner-City Development Committee that the name Sameer Younis might come to be best remembered. For this, he walked every depressed community in downtown Kingston, commiserated with the politically warring people and earned their trust, amidst the filth and scum of the forbidden streets.

The programme had clear objectives: break down the political barrier; remove the distrust between the police and residents of the troubled communities; remove the distrust between the residents and the business community; and promote family life and sound values.

He grieved openly about the poor family life in Jamaica where young girls bear children they leave to grow up on their own, often abused and uneducated, complaining that in the ghettos, 85 per cent of children were born out of wedlock and 66 per cent were unwanted.

And now, every time that a newborn baby cries in the ghettos, it will be the wailful mourn of Sameer Younis, crying for his beloved country.


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