Letters to the Editor

Don't hide the past - forget it, build a better future

Monday, September 10, 2012    

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Dear Editor,

I read with interest Mr Wayne Campbell's letter in the Jamaica Observer of August 29, 2012, and was amazed what partisan politics can do to skew someone's view of historical facts.

What Councillor Campbell has put forward is the same rhetoric from the mid to latter part of the 1970s about CIA involvement and destabilisation, both external and internal, that was wrought on the Jamaican people. However, he failed to mention certain events that seemed to have played a greater part in destruction of econmic stability in Jamaica. As a young government worker in these turbulent days, let me remind him of a few of them.

Michael Manley was swept to power because of the promise of "power for the people" which later became the Democratic Socialism after the oil crisis of 1973 to 1974. This philosophy unfortunately was embraced by some misguided poor people who sought to have a share in the assets of more wealthy persons who they felt should be sharing their land, houses and valuables with them. The force of "socialism" along with this fear of losing their hard-earned assets pushed many people to migrate with whatever they could, often selling at a loss.

Manley's friendship with Fidel Castro and close ties with the non-aligned movement which was anti-capitalistic and pro-Soviet Union was another debilitating factor that affected our economy. How could we expect the USA, our closest benefactor, to continue to give support to a group of developing countries that were "fighting" against it? Tourism was greatly affected when many hotels laid off staff and some shut down. Some survived only because the government then decided to offer free Jamaican vacations to public servants on a lottery system to spend time at some of these hotels. I benefited by spending a few days free of cost at Trident Villas and Hotel in Port Antonio.

The constant political acrimony between the PNP and JLP led to tribalism, violence, divisions on very sharp lines with boundaries very few dared to cross because of the violence - real and feared. Colours such as green and orange spelt death and destruction, dependent on where you found yourself on a given occasion, and the weapons of sticks and stones gave way to guns and molotov cocktails.

You hardly trusted anybody because partisan politics was the order of the day.

Food was hard to come by, particularly what we had been accustomed to, such as flour, rice, corned beef, salted fish - and you had to know somebody with a shop to taste any of these luxuries. If you did not, then you had to bear the indignity of "marriage" of odd partners like mackerel and soap powder, or condensed milk and tampons. Sounds strange, but that really happened. And don't tell me about merchants hiding food, because there were both PNP and JLP shopkeepers too. Would the PNP be sabotaging the government also?

I guess that many survivors of that period, including me, could write books with similar tales of our experiences that would open the eyes of many of our young people today and bring back memories of past days. I just hope we have put all this behind us and are working towards building a better Jamaica. We can forgive and forget some of the misfortunes we suffered, the friends and family we lost and the trying times we had. What we should never allow is for some people to behave as if it never happened.

Donald Hinds






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