An evening that placed Manley's Truth Be Told in the spotlight

An evening that placed Manley's Truth Be Told in the spotlight

Staff reporter

Sunday, July 07, 2019

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In the afterglow of his political career, and in the years leading up to his death in 1997, Michael Manley sat with his wife Glynn Manley and gave his candid reflections on events, local and international, which had shaped him, a controversial leader of the Caribbean and the developing world, who by then was eyeing the sunset of his life.

Truth Be Told: Michael Manley in Conversation with Glynn Manley, a redacted version of those exclusive interviews, was launched on Wednesday at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel in St Andrew, where a nostalgic audience remembered the life of the late populist Jamaican leader.

Publisher Ian Randle noted the historical value of Manley's uncensored thoughts and opinions.

“Three and a half years ago, Glynn Manley came to me with a shopping bag of 23 obsolete but still audible cassette tapes, and in a shoe box, 15 CDs that together contained the raw uncut versions of interviews she had conducted with Michael Manley over a three year period, between 1993 and 1996.

“It was not just what I was hearing on those tapes, but the context in which those interviews took place. Here was Michael Manley, now out of politics, speaking to a trusted someone, letting go of his most intimate thoughts and opinions, recollections of local and international events. It is arguable that the existence of these tapes was and is unprecedented in the annals of the political history on any country. Their historical value is priceless,” said Randle.

He also noted that the complete digitised versions of the interviews were deposited in the National Library of Jamaica for safekeeping, with a 25-year embargo on their full contents being made available to the public.

“Fewer than half dozen persons have been privy to the full contents of those interviews”, said Randle.

Glynn Manley, whose idea it was to interview her late husband, said in her author's remark that Michael Manley was naturally 'open and honest' in his reflections.

“Perhaps too this was his one chance to set the record straight. He needed to challenge some of the misconceptions and the downright lies that have been told about him,” said Glynn Manley, who further noted that weeks before his death, Michael Manley had called together all the bauxite heads to come to him to discuss the Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP), known to have been the brainchild of the late prime minister.

“He was in his death bed; unbelievably frail-looking and he wanted to promote them using ESOP, the Employee Share Ownership Plan. His body had definitely let him down, but his mind right up to the very end was as sharp and as innovative as ever.

“With all the problems, there has never been a more widely held sense of pride in being Jamaican than was felt during his time in office,” said Glynn Manley.

Guest speaker, Peter Bunting, also shared his own reflections on the book, assuring the audience that this was not a moment for political campaigning.

In June, the Central Manchester Member of Parliament released a statement announcing his decision to challenge Dr Peter Phillips for the presidency of Michael Manley's beloved People's National Party. In that statement, Bunting quoted Manley in Truth Be Told as saying:

“The PNP's historical role has always been the architect of change... Somebody has to be the agent of change. To think about change and betterment; how to do it, inspire towards it, jook and prod and upset people as you achieve it. Somebody has to do that. Right now the PNP is very much a sedate manager for a set of givens. If the whole political system becomes incapable of renewal through challenge, and I put it that way deliberately, then you're going to find that the system will begin to lose credibility, lose momentum; young people will have less and less faith in it, and the terrible cynicism which is such a problem in Jamaica today can become entrenched.”

“It's as if Michael is alive and sitting with us here today, noting our challenges. I thank all of you for listening to me. I hope you have been inspired as I have been for being reminded through Truth Be Told of the significant work and contributions of Michael Manley to Jamaica,” said Bunting.

Bunting told the Jamaica Observer that he found personal encouragement in Manley's words, which were perhaps instructive to him.

“In the book, Michael speaks to the fact that the final person he personally recruited into the PNP was me. From I was a teenager I was a fan, disciple, a mentee of Michael Manley. In my high school yearbook at Campion, and I must have been about 16 or 17 years old at the time, the caption was 'future in politics', because I always chatting politics, and it was based on Michael Manley. And my father was a big fan of Michael Manley — Norman before and then Michael.”

This early attraction, Bunting said, was amplified when he had come back to Jamaica from university abroad as a young entrepreneur and Manley was making the transition to a liberalised economy.

“He said to me that in this transition to a market economy, he needed young people who were not steeped in the whole state socialist type approaches; he needed young people who understood the market, and he invited me to come into the public sector and into government to work with him in this transition.

“I ran the privatisation programme for the Government. I reported to him in his office. And I became a part of his support team. Sometimes when he was writing major speeches he would call us into his study and bounce ideas off of us, and we would give him inputs and such. And then he eventually persuaded me to offer myself for political representation.”

Bunting also noted that Manley campaigned with him in his 1993 run up against former Prime Minister Hugh Shearer for the North East Clarendon constituency.

“When it came to 1993, they said for the first time ever he (Michael Manley) actually came to Lionel Town and campaigned on a platform against Hugh Shearer because he said his time had come. I then was the youngest candidate at 32, he was the oldest in that batch at 67 and the rest is history,” said Bunting.

The once JLP stronghold had never been won by the PNP. Jamaica's first Prime Minister Alexander Bustamante first held the seat; then Hugh Shearer represented it for 27 years.

“We won it in 1993 by almost 1,500 votes,” Bunting noted. Asked whether he thought Manley would back him this time around if he were still alive today, Bunting laughed.

“I won't even attempt to speak on his behalf, but I think the quotation that I gave from him is him speaking for himself so I will just leave it at that.”

As for the tone of the campaign, Bunting said that overall he is hopeful that an internal election “will inject a sense of purpose into the party and will energise the base and will make us more competitive electorally. That is my intention and I think we are moving in that direction,” Bunting told the Sunday Observer.

“The response has been very positive, not just with delegates but with the voting public generally.We are very encouraged. We are taking nothing for granted. We are not being complacent. We are going out; we are meeting with delegates in as many communities across Jamaica. But we are not just meeting with delegates because we want to hear from the general public as well. And we are going to incorporate their input into our platform; we are having our launch on the 14th, and we are continuing the momentum from there,” said Bunting.

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