'The 'Duncan' gave me currency'

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'The 'Duncan' gave me currency'

ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jmaiacaobserver.com

Monday, September 21, 2020

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His children were no stranger to his political life, accompanying him on the hustings from their early years and seeing him revered by many. But the story of just how much of a legend former politician Dr Donald Keith (D K) Duncan was, is one his daughter Patricia Duncan Sutherland tells eloquently.

In an interview with Jamaica Observer's sister radio station The Edge on Friday, following the death of her father on Thursday, Duncan Sutherland gave credence to the declaration previously made by former Prime Minister of Jamaica PJ Patterson.

“Legendary, for sure. Before I went into politics, I got married, I became Patricia Sutherland and I was comfortable with that. Going into politics, I realised the currency of my father's name and I immediately went and changed my name to Patricia Duncan Sutherland; the Duncan gave me currency. It caused people to want to be around me, so legendary he is,” she told Top of the Morning host Richie B.

“He was legendary for many things. He was not a perfect human being, but he was a true and real human being. People knew they could trust him, people knew they could believe in him and he believed in people, and he was always honest so I would have to agree that he was in fact legendary in Jamaica. He will not be forgotten for a very long time,” said Duncan Sutherland

She contested the September 3 General Election on the People's National Party ticket but failed in the bid to secure the Clarendon South Eastern seat.

The lessons learnt she learnt from a father hailed by his party as a talented political organiser, a fearless fighter for his beliefs, a formidable political force wherever he represented, and a man respected by friends and foes, were many, Duncan Sutherland shared.

“The most important thing: It's the people that matter; listen to the people, anything you are doing, listen to what the people are telling you. Second: organisation. You have to know what is happening on the ground. It's the numbers that matter, but once you get the number you have to organise; know where the people are and who the people are.

“In terms of organising to change a mindset, it's about the engagement. That was from my perspective his biggest contribution to the PNP”, she stated.

Time spent sitting at the feet of the man perhaps made most visible during the politically tumultuous 70s was not without its own brush with danger for the Duncan family, but even that, Duncan Sutherland said, was contextualised by the wisdom of her father taking the ugliness from it.

“When we were growing up and we were to spend our weekends with Daddy, we spent our weekends on the road in the politics. So, oftentimes we were there with him on a Saturday night 11:00 pm. We would be with him at a bar, talking to the people, drinking a lot of hot Pepsi,” she recalled fondly.

“We were exposed to the political sphere from a very early age so it didn't become frightening for us. There were frightening moments. Keith [brother] was in Spanish Town during that legendary moment when the soldiers were firing shots and Michael Manley was on stage and everybody was scattering and he tried to run and jump into a manhole but the manhole was full so he had to run and try to find a different place to hide. So there were frightening moments; there is no doubt about it,” she reminisced.

“One of the things we learnt from Daddy is that those moments were contextual. Those moments were occurring because other things were occurring, and those moments do not define the politics and the purpose of the politics, and the purpose of the politics remain today and the context of politics has changed. My own experience of politics today is that we have successfully removed the violence out of politics, but we have not successfully put back in the understanding of why politics is important and therefore we ended up with a 37 per cent turnout at our polls in the last elections. So we have work to do,” she said.

Dr Duncan began his political career in 1966. Over the span of his 50-year career, the dentist by profession served as minister of national mobilisation and human resource in 1977, Member of Parliament for St Andrew East Central between 1976 and 1983, and he represented the PNP in Hanover Eastern for two terms (2007-2016).

He is survived by his wife Beverly and six children.


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