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What a way to treat the 'Father of the nation' NW Manley!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

THE few exceptions aside, Jamaica does a generally poor job of preserving and maintaining historical sites.

We have never been able to understand the thinking that accompanies this lack of appreciation for safeguarding our heritage, for we see not only the historical and educational advantages, but the economic benefits that can flow from these monuments.

The Rose Hall Great House in St James, for instance, has become a staple of our tourism industry. So too has Firefly, the St Mary vacation home of Sir Noel Coward, the famous English playwright, actor and composer. Greenwood Great House, also in St James, enjoys its fair share of tourist traffic, as do Lovers' Leap in St Elizabeth and Devon House in Kingston.

The fact, though, is that there are many buildings here that hold historical significance but which we have failed to preserve.

One such is the structure at Roxborough in Manchester, the birthplace of National Hero Mr Norman Manley.

The lethargy with respect to restoring this building was brought to the fore on July 4, the anniversary of Mr Manley's birth.

Had he lived, Mr Manley, easily one of Jamaica's brightest and most talented sons, and a man who was at the forefront of our Independence movement, would have been 119.

He was among the small group of nationalists who founded the People's National Party (PNP) and served as Jamaica's first premier.

In recognition of Mr Manley's sterling contribution to Jamaica, the Palisadoes Airport in Kingston was renamed in his honour; the law school at the University of the West Indies bears his name; his remains are interred at National Heroes Park with a fitting monument; and the main road through Negril carries his name, given that it was he who opened up that area to tourism.

His birthplace, however, doesn't seem to carry any weight among those who are charged with preserving our history. A report in this week's Sunday Observer informed us that Ms Dorothy Miller, the chair of the Manchester Cultural Development Committee, has not had a response to recommendations made by the committee for the Roxborough site to be developed and preserved.

Ms Miller believes that there exists a lack of will to restore the site, which has fallen into disrepair and was further damaged by fire a few years ago.

We share her opinion, but we also hold that blame for this should be shared by the PNP which, we thought, would have seen it fit by now to ensure that the building is preserved.

The party's failure to act on this is even more pronounced for the fact that since Mr Manley's passing in September 1969, the PNP has formed the Government three times, winning a historic four consecutive terms in the process. Surely, over that time, the PNP could have done something to preserve the birthplace of one of its founders -- a man whom the party revers and calls "Father of the Nation".

Unfortunately, the Roxborough site is just one of many edifices that now stand as symbols of how not to treat a country's heritage.

We acknowledge that state funds are scarce and the country's needs are many. But the Government, we hold, can always find money to do what it wants to, such as to pay consultants and advisors.

The irony is that properly maintained and marketed historical sites can earn the country much-needed foreign exchange that could help to pay these very costly consultants and advisors.

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