JLP expresses remorse at Douglas Vaz's death

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, November 11, 2019

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FORMER Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Minister of Industry and Commerce (1980-1989) Douglas Vaz died peacefully in his sleep at his Kingston home yesterday morning.

Vaz, who was 83 years old, is the father of Government Minister Daryl Vaz, who is a minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation and Member of Parliament for Portland Western.

Yesterday, prime minister and leader of the JLP Andrew Holness, in a statement, expressed condolence to his immediate and extended family.

“Douglas served with distinction. He worked for the betterment of Jamaica and transcended political borders with an unwavering commitment and contribution to nation-building. My thoughts are with the Vaz family at this time,” said Holness.

JLP general secretary and Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang recalled Vaz as a distinguished member of the party who served both the public and private sectors with distinction through some very challenging times.

“He was a good man, and we all will miss him,” Dr Chang added.

The elder Vaz entered politics in the turbulent 1970s, as the ideological competition between the left-leaning Government of the People's National Party (PNP) led by Michael Manley, and the centrist JLP led by Edward Seaga descended into a virtual street fight.

A prominent businessman and head of H West Vaz and L F Vaz Limited, Bindings and Accessories Limited, and Jamaica Brassiere Enterprise Limited, he was president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association between 1973 and 1976, during which he was regarded as the voice of the private sector.

However, not satisfied with just being the voice of the sector, the elder Vaz left the association and teamed with Seaga and the JLP as the Opposition actively pursued curtailing the spread of socialist activities led by Manley.

He won the St Andrew North Central constituency for the JLP in the 1976 General Election, which was held in the midst of a national state of emergency in which the PNP was returned to power, and again in 1980 when the JLP finally overtook the PNP and won a massive 51 of the 60 seats then in the House of Representatives. In the 1983 General Election he was returned unopposed, after the PNP boycotted that election.

Vaz was assigned to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in 1980 by Seaga and served in that ministry up to 1989 when the PNP returned to power. In the meantime, he had contributed to a major turnaround in the economy, which boosted employment, especially in the local garment industry, and led to the rehabilitation of the sugar and banana industries, as well as helped to save a collapsing bauxite/alumina industry.

In 1989 he switched to the St Andrew North Eastern constituency after changes to the borders of the northern St Andrew constituencies. Vaz won that seat in 1989 when the PNP was returned to power, but lost in 1993 to a young upstart, Karlene Kirlew Robertson, who won the seat for the first time for the PNP. However, since 1997, the seat has been held by the JLP's justice minister, Delroy Chuck.

Vaz's loss, however, could have been attributed to turmoil within the JLP in 1990s over the continued leadership of the party by Seaga, as he was numbered among the so-called “Gang of Five”, which also included Pearnel Charles, Edmund Bartlett, Karl Samuda, and the late Errol Anderson.

Charles, Bartlett and Samuda eventually returned to the JLP after they were invited to “light a candle, sing a sankey and find your way back home”. They also returned to the JLP's Cabinet in 2007. However, Vaz did not accept the offer, and joined the newly formed National Democratic Movement, which was led by another disenchanted Labourite, Bruce Golding.

Golding returned as leader of the JLP in 2005, replacing Seaga, and was eventually named prime minister in 2007. He resigned in 2011 and was replaced by Holness.


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