Dwight Nelson — solid mahogany!

Friday, December 28, 2018

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Dear Editor,

Dwight Nelson, who has died aged 72, was unlimited in his vocation on worker's rights and active trade unionism. He clearly brought energy, creativity, and ideas into this process, for which, upon his death, he is fittingly recognised and remembered universally as having been a stalwart in the struggle for justice, parity of esteem, and equal rights of the modern Jamaican working class.

It is reported that complications associated with diabetes terminated his life.

In my humble and brief opinion, although the man I knew gave up to God his exhausted spirit, I am certain that he died with the firmness and self-possession native to his character. And anyone who knew him intimately in his roles as Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) member, senator in the Upper House, Cabinet minister, Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) deputy chairman, Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions president, vice-president of the JLP-affiliated Bustmante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), politician, brother and friend, will readily attest to the mature energies of his mind and the concentred affections of his heart to the freedom of his country.

Pity then that his performance during the Dudus-Manatt commission of enquiry in 2011 — established by then prime minister and leader of his party, the JLP, Bruce Golding, who took the longest route to get to Jamaica House and the shortest route to exit from it — diminished his considerable talent as a senior public servant, and rendered him looking grossly incompetent as the minister of national security at the time.

But I am satisfied that those of us who know that history can't be hurried, and neither can it be delayed, also know that Dwight Nelson's enduring portrait of a thoughtful, witty man who made public service seem like the natural and human thing to do, will triumph over the paradox of such a terrible storm.

For we will all be remembered in spite of ourselves, and Dwight Nelson held no disdain towards the workers he represented; and they held none towards him. Today's experience of the working poor in our midst, furthermore, against the background of the deleterious consequences of the sweeping technological revolution of the 21st century on the labour market, and the impact engendered by globalisation and climate change on emerging new structural levels of poverty, gives the symbolism of Dwight Nelson's life's work on behalf of the people from below in this country renewed urgency.

I shall forever remember him as a gentle soul whose gentleness was combined with a terrific toughness and iron strength. He had an acute appreciation of his place in this vexing race and class conscious society, and that given the side of the track from whence he came, grit, stamina, and hard work were the sine qua non for achieving lasting success.

Regrettably, Dwight Nelson's indefatigable spirit has left us at a time when the Jamaican working class is desperately in need of a voice of its own. While he lived he gave us the feeling that this was possible. On the basis of his sense of compassion and always opting for peace over conflict, and being mindful of his roots, he understood and appreciated the struggle of the labouring class from below over three centuries through sugar, the plantation, and colonialism, yet managing to survive.

He will be missed by many, especially by his adoring wife Angela and the admiring members of his family. Let us all give thanks to God for his life. He was, after all, solid mahogany!

Everton Pryce


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