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A colossus laid to rest

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT Observer staff reporter hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, August 09, 2014    

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SIR Howard Cooke's life of service and sacrifice for the creation of an independent Jamaica was yesterday praised by the country's leaders, including Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller who said he "gave true meaning to the word colossus".

In fact, the late governor general's colossal status was highlighted in the irony that, having been barred from entering King's House during the colonial period, when he was 17 years old, Sir Howard was chauffeur-driven to that house many years later on his appointment as the Queen's representative in 1991.

For the next 15 years, he lived at King's House, where he transformed the role of governor general from that of involvement in ceremonial matters only, to nation-building endeavours, among them the establishment of the Governor General's Award for people engaged in outstanding work in their communities.

The prime minister delivered the fourth of five read tributes at the State Funeral for Sir Howard inside The Cathedral of The Most Holy Trinity on George Headley Drive in Kingston.

Sir Howard, who was Jamaica's third governor general, passed away on July 11. He was 98.

Hundreds of mourners, including politicians, diplomats, members of the constabulary and military, pathfinders, girl guides, and scouts participated in the funeral that ran from mid-morning to early afternoon when the man affectionately called 'Teacher Cooke' was interred at National Heroes Park.

The procession from the cathedral to the park was marked by a 21-gun salute, a military honour regarded as one of the highest that a country can accord to an individual.

Earlier, the sombre mood inside the cathedral was lightened by musical tributes from the National Chorale of Jamaica, the Jamaican Folk Singers and Hope United Church Choir.

"His selfless service to Jamaica included active participation as athlete, educator and administrator," Simpson Miller said in her tribute. "He excelled as a salesman, business manager and clergyman. He served his people as a trade unionist, political pioneer, strategist, teacher of political strategy, organiser, and political leader of what many called the republic of western Jamaica."

She described Sir Howard as a true democrat, patriot, honest and fair man who was passionate about the social needs of citizens.

"These were the fundamental qualities that caused the young Howard Cooke to become involved in the foundational social activism provided through Jamaica Welfare before he became involved in the activism of party politics," she said.

"Jamaica Welfare provided his foray into the realm of service, bringing education, health services, paediatric care, community development tools, and principles of self-reliance to the masses of our people," Simpson Miller said.

Sir Howard, who also a founding member of the People's National Party (PNP), was regarded by the prime minister as a man who provided "power for the people, by the people".

"The political movement of the PNP provided a vapour through which that national band of nationalists, led by Norman Washington Manley, set about the arduous task, the long, strong march towards building a society anchored in the fundamental binding of industry, honesty, truth, commitment to country, and equality for all. This movement had, among its objectives, universal adult suffrage," she said.

"Together they demanded the right to self-determination by popular democratic franchise. They also sought self-government; advocating and negotiating the sovereignty of the new Jamaican nation. Through his early assertion of nationalist sentiment and his unquenchable nation-building purpose, Sir Howard Cooke was undoubtedly one of the pioneers of the new Jamaica," the prime minister added.

Moreover, she said Sir Howard participated in advocacy and representation, the development of legislation, and a range of policy initiatives that saw Jamaica's social transformation from Crown Colony to independent nation state and beyond through an era of social transformation.

Former Prime Minister Percival James Patterson, who gave the remembrance, said Sir Howard was no ordinary man. He described the former GG as a pioneer who pledged to fight for adult suffrage, self-government, and upward social mobility.

"He was chosen to be a pioneer who would help to draft the constitution and design the policy framework for the PNP," Patterson said.

Patterson further described Sir Howard as a quintessential mentor for life and maintained that the late GG charted a course to create a new independent relationship with the rest of the world.

Sir Howard's grandchildren -- Dr Howard Cooke, Tasha Cooke-Davis, and Alberto Cooke -- remembered him as a man who showed love and concern for others, while Jamaica Teachers' Association President Dr Mark Nicely, in his tribute, said: "Teaching was what Sir Howard Cooke cherished the most."

Dr Nicley reminded the congregation that Sir Howard, during his tenure as a Government minister, established the school nutrition programme, oversaw the upgrade of junior secondary school,s and the establishment of Jamaica's first four community colleges.

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