BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor — publications firstname.lastname@example.org
THE song is 37 years old. But the social significance and biting commentary of Neville 'Struggle' Martin's My Leader Born Yah still enlivens supporters of the ruling People's National Party (PNP).
That much was evident at yesterday's public session of the party's 75th annual conference inside the National Arena in Kingston.
While Edward Seaga is no longer at the helm of the PNP's arch political rival, the Jamaica Labour Party, My Leader Born Yah — a dig at Seaga's ancestry — is also seen by many Comrades as a celebration of the PNP's achievements during the early 1970s when Jamaican-born Michael Manley led the party and Government.
The Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL), the adult literacy programme established in 1974; Project Land Lease, a rural development programme introduced in 1973 under which small farmers were provided with land, technical advice, fertilisers and access to credit; free education; equal pay for women; the Pioneer Corps, which provided young Jamaicans with co-operative management training; schools built here by the Cuban Government; and the 1976 Status of Children Act, which eliminates the distinction between children born in or out of wedlock, are proudly trumpeted by Martin in the song.
Yesterday, the song blasted from heavy speaker boxes as PNP President and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller entered the packed arena.
As Simpson Miller made her way to the stage through a 'guard of honour' formed by young supporters, the overjoyed Comrades sang and shouted the lyrics with gusto.
But it was when the song was played again during her address focusing on the achievements of the present Government that the real party started.
Unlike the other songs used to whip up the crowd during speech breaks, My Leader Born Yah got an extended run.
Anyone new to the history of Jamaica's politics would have figured out that the song meant a lot to the PNP members. Some sang with their eyes shut, others waved flags and rocked to the infectious rhythm, while many danced.
Foreign Minister AJ Nicholson, showing that he doesn't plan to be restricted by age, entertained with deft foot movements. The crowd loved it.
But My Leader Born Yah, which became the party's unofficial campaign song in the 1976 General Election, was not the only reminder of that period yesterday.
Jose Rosales, Nicaragua's minister of justice and member of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, brought greetings from his Government in an address — delivered through an interpreter — laced with socialist rhetoric.
"Yesterday, PNP; today, PNP, tomorrow, PNP!" he shouted to loud, sustained applause and noise-maker horns.
Similar greetings were extended to the PNP by representatives of Cuba's Communist Party, who said that the Cuban Government will never forget "the noble" gesture of friendship from Jamaica, despite pressure from the United States to isolate Cuba.
View highlights from the PNP 75th annual conference in our Online Photo Gallery here (116 images)