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UWI professor bemoans Ja's poor record-keeping practices

BY KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer staff reporter matthewsk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, July 31, 2012    

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A University of the West Indies (UWI) professor has urged Jamaicans to place greater emphasis on preserving the island's rich heritage and history.

Edward Baugh, Professor Emeritus of English at UWI's Mona campus, on Sunday said that greater emphasis must be placed on preserving not only records but also the life stories of the country's notable "sons and daughters".

According to Professor Baugh, too often the stories of many of the country's most noted compatriots have gone untold because of the failure of Jamaicans to preserve the records of their lives to pass on to the younger generation.

"Just as we talk about national heritage sites, but let them deteriorate from neglect; so we let our stories and the lives and sayings of those who figured memorable in that story fall out of memory," Baugh said.

He was speaking at the launch of the biography of the late Donald Sangster — the second prime minister of independent Jamaica — at the Institute of Jamaica in downtown Kingston.

The book, entitled Jamaica's Forgotten Prime Minister — Donald Sangster, was written by the late journalist Hartley Neita and explores why Jamaica should not forget the contributions of Sangster, who died three months into office in April 1967, to Jamaica and the Commonwealth.

"This is a moment not just for celebration, but of stocktaking; stocktaking of the society of what it has made of itself in these 50 years," said Professor Baugh.

He said the publication of the book should remind the country of its deficiency in keeping record of its achievements.

Dr Alfred Sangster, the cousin of the late prime minister, also spoke highly of the former leader.

"Sir Donald walked tall in any audience, and he was often referred to as 'Mr Commonwealth'," said Dr Sangster.

Dr Sangster also used the forum to clear up suspicions as to the cause of his cousin's death.

"I feel that I owe it to this audience to comment on a rumour that was prevalent at the time of his death; that he was poisoned," he said.

"Sir Donald died of a brain haemorrhage. He was also knighted four days before his death by Queen Elizabeth II," he added, noting that he had spoken to the doctors who treated Sir Donald before he died.

He said the doctors told him that if they had the technology they have now when Sir Donald fell ill, his life would have been saved.

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