Regional

Bustamante's remembrance service marred by poor turnout

BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, February 26, 2013    

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BLENHEIM, Hanover — Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) Vice-President Alden Brown has chided politicians for their absence at the remembrance service to commemorate the 129th anniversary of the birth of National Hero Sir Alexander Bustamante at his birthplace in Blenheim on Sunday.

"I am very disappointed with the turnout of politicians here this morning (Sunday), and am I saying to the JCDC (Jamaica Cultural Development Commission) don't take any apologies from them because this is the Bustamante [who] left his footprints in the sand for them to follow; and to come and spend one hour to celebrate his birthday they find other things to do, and I am very embarrassed," said an apparently infuriated Brown.

His remarks during his tribute to the late national hero were greeted with loud cheers from the small group that had gathered in the big tent for the service.

The function, which was organised by the Hanover Parish Council in collaboration with the JCDC, began shortly after midday and was scheduled to last for two hours.

Chairman of the Hanover Parish Council Shernet Haughton, who was scheduled to welcome the guests and later to bring greetings on behalf of Member of Parliament for the area, Ian Hayles, was unable to do so as she arrived at the function about half an hour before it ended.

No apology was tendered for her late arrival.

There was a noticeable absence of members of the People's National Party (PNP)-dominated council as well as civic and business leaders from across western Jamaica and officials of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

In fact, Haughton -- who is the councillor for the Green Island Division -- and the JLP's Donavon Brown were the only two political representatives of the seven-member council in attendance.

JLP caretaker for Eastern Hanover Paula Kerr-Jarrett, who delivered a tribute on behalf of Opposition Leader Andrew Holness and reflected on the life of Bustamante as a politician, also expressed disappointment at the poor turnout.

"More people should really be here, because when we look at where Bustamante started and where he took us to as a nation, I think that we need to be reminded of this every year," she argued.

"When we look on the tremendous impact that he (Bustamante) had on our nation, we should not forget it. We are too quick sometimes to forget where we came from; we get into positions of authority and all of a sudden our leaders forget what and who took them there, and this kind of event is a reminder of what really leadership is about," she added.

Several tributes in dance and music were rendered, and three items reflecting on aspects of Bustamante's life -- 'The Politician', 'The Trade Unionist', and 'A Man of All Times' -- were also presented.

Bustamante, who was Jamaica's first prime minister and the founder of the BITU, was born in the deep rural district of Blenheim on February 24, 1884. He died in August 1977.

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