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Wanted – A national hero to deal with crime

FRANK PHIPPS

Sunday, October 06, 2019

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This is a public notice inviting applications from suitably qualified people to deal with crime. Politicians from Parliament, present and past, need not apply; not because they prequalify for the Order of National Hero — to the contrary, it is out of caution to prevent them from elevating one of their own to the exalted status of National Hero, as was done to create the lofty title of Most Honourable to be bestowed only on one coming from among themselves.

Before setting out the functions for the person who will serve to guide the nation through these worrying times, it may be helpful to look at the seven previously proclaimed heroes to see what services they rendered to qualify for the Order of National Hero an honour awarded for services of the most distinguished nature.

The following is extracted from the Jamaica Information Service record of our heroes, presented in no particular order.

The Right Excellent Queen Nanny of the Maroons

The only female awarded the Order of National Hero.

Nanny was a leader of the Maroons at the beginning of the 18th century. She was born into the Ashanti people and captured in what is today Ghana; after being transported to Jamaica in captivity, she escaped from slavery.

Nanny was known by both the Maroons and the British settlers as an outstanding military leader. She was particularly skilled in organising the guerilla warfare carried out by the Eastern Maroons to keep away the British troops.

Besides inspiring her people to ward off the troops, Nanny was also a type of chieftainess or wise woman of the village, who passed down legends and encouraged the continuation of customs, music, and songs that had come with the people from Africa, which instilled in them confidence and pride.

The Right Excellent Samuel Sharpe — St James parish 1801 to May 23, 1832

Samuel Sharpe was the main instigator of the 1831 Christmas Rebellion that was largely instrumental in bringing about the abolition of slavery. He was an enslaved Jamaican man who declared, “I would rather die upon yonder gallows, than live in slavery.”

Samuel Sharpe was just 31 years old when he instigated a plan of passive resistance as a general strike against slavery slaves would refuse to work after their Christmas holiday in 1831 and would continue to strike until the estate owners and managers listened to their grievances. The strike was timed for the key harvest period and if the ripe cane was not cut then, it would be ruined.

The idea spread throughout the island and reached the ears of the slave owners whose retribution for the resistance was swift and merciless; some were imprisoned, many flogged and ringleaders executed. Sam Sharpe's hope for peaceful resistance was shattered in the conflict.

Sam Sharpe was captured and hanged on May 23, 1832 on a square in Montego Bay now called Sam Sharpe Square. His owners were paid 16.00 for their 'loss of property'.

The Right Excellent Paul Bogle

It is believed that Bogle was born free about 1822. He was a Baptist deacon in Stony Gut, a few miles north of Morant Bay, and was eligible to vote at a time when there were only 104 voters in the parish of St Thomas. He was a firm political supporter of George William Gordon.

Poverty and injustice in the society and lack of public confidence in the central authority moved Bogle to lead a protest march to the Morant Bay courthouse on October 11, 1865 that resulted in what was called the Morant Bay Rebellion. In a violent confrontation with the official forces, nearly 500 people were killed and a great number flogged and punished before order was restored. Bogle was captured and hanged on October 24, 1865 but his forceful demonstration achieved its objectives paving the way for just practices in the courts and a change in official attitude of the new Jamaican with improvement in their social and economic condition.

The Right Excellent George William Gordon, 1820-1865

George William Gordon was son of a slave mother and a planter father. Gordon was self-educated and himself a landowner in the parish of St Thomas.

Gordon became a wealthy Jamaican businessman, a magistrate and politician, one of two representatives to the Assembly from St Thomas-in-the-East parish. He used his position to highlight the sufferings of the people and to make a plea for change. He was a leading critic of the colonial government and the policies of Governor Edward Eyre, which was to be his downfall.

Gordon was arrested in Kingston, tried in Morant Bay for complicity in the Morant Bay Rebellion and sentenced to death. The merciless force used to quell the rebellion and the resultant execution of Bogle and Gordon compelled the British Government to make changes for governance with improved conditions for the people. The House of Assembly was abolished marking the end of plantocracy and the beginning of a new colonial rule in Jamaica. Gordon House, where Parliament now sits, bears his name.

The Right Excellent Norman Washington Manley, QC

Norman Manley was born July 4, 1893 and died in September 1969. He was a brilliant scholar and athlete, soldier (First World War) and lawyer. He identified himself with the cause of the workers at the time of the labour troubles of 1938 and donated time and advocacy to the cause.

Norman Manley co-founded the People's National Party (PNP) in September 1938 and was elected its president annually until his retirement in 1969. He supported the trade union movement, then led by Alexander Bustamante, while leading the demand for Universal Adult Suffrage.

Manley was a strong advocate of the Federation of the West Indies that was established in 1958, but when Sir Alexander Bustamante announced that the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) would take Jamaica out of the Federation Manley, as chief minister, called for a referendum to let the people decide. After the result, he arranged Jamaica's orderly withdrawal from the union and set up a joint committee of Parliament to decide on a constitution for independent Jamaica. The JLP won the ensuing election and Manley gave his last years of service as leader of the Opposition, establishing the role of the parliamentary Opposition in a developing nation.

In his last public address to an annual conference of the PNP, he said: “I say that the mission of my generation was to win self-government for Jamaica, to win political power which is the final power for the black masses of my country from which I spring. I am proud to stand here today and say, mission accomplished for my generation'. And what is the 'mission of this generation? … It is… reconstructing the social and economic society and life of Jamaica.”

The Right Excellent William Alexander Bustamante

Sir Alexander Bustamante was born on February 24, 1884 named William Alexander Clarke but changed his name in 1944 to William Alexander Bustamante. His grandmother Elsie Clarke-Shearer was also the grandmother of Bustamante's contemporary and political rival fellow National Hero Norman Washington Manley.

Sir Alexander was a Jamaican politician and labour leader who was the founder of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and the Jamaica Labour Party. Beginning in 1905, the restless Bustamante travelled extensively in the hemisphere for 30 years at a variety of occupations, particularly in Cuba, Panama, and the United States.

Back in Jamaica in the mid-30s his money-lending business prospered, but while it gave him a livelihood it also opened his eyes to the appalling plight of the poor and working class.

When Sir Alexander began to make his presence felt in Jamaica, the country was still a Crown Colony. Under this system, the governor had the right to veto at all times, which he very often exercised against the wishes of the majority. Bustamante was quick to realise that the social and economic ills that such a system engendered, had to be countered by mobilising the working class.

Bustamante first impressed his name on the society with a series of letters to The Gleaner and occasionally to British newspapers, calling attention to the social and economic problems of the poor and underprivileged in Jamaica. The years 1937 and 1938 brought the outbreak of widespread discontent and social unrest. In advocating the cause of the masses, Bustamante became the undisputed champion of the working class. In confrontation with the power of the colonial governor, Bustamante declared: “Long live the King! But Denham must go.”

Bustamante was detained at Up Park Camp on September 8, 1940 for alleged violation of the Defence of the Realm Act and released 17 months late after the intervention by his barrister cousin Norman Manley.

In 1943 Bustamante followed the example set by his cousin and used the membership of the BITU to build the JLP as a national political party. When the JLP won the elections at independence in 1962, Bustamante was named the new nation's first prime minister. He retired from active politics in 1967 and died on August 6, 1977 at the age of 93. On October 18, 1969 Bustamante was conferred with the Order of National Hero along with his cousin, The Right Excellent Norman Washington Manley.

The Right Excellent Marcus Garvey

Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887-1940) was Jamaica's first National Hero. He was born in St Ann's Bay, Jamaica, on August 17, 1887 and was conferred with the Order of National Hero in 1969.

In his youth Garvey migrated to Kingston where he worked as a printer and published a small paper The Watchman. During his career Garvey travelled extensively through many countries, observing the poor working and living conditions of black people. In 1914 he started the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica. The UNIA grew into an international organisation, urging self-government for black people while protesting against racial discrimination worldwide.

In 1916, Garvey went to the USA where he preached his doctrine of freedom to the oppressed blacks throughout the country. However, US officials disapproved of his activities so he was imprisoned and deported.

Back in Jamaica in 1927 he continued his political activity, forming the People's Political Party in 1929. He was unsuccessful in national elections but won a seat on the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC). The world of the 1930s was not ready for Garvey's progressive ideas. He left Jamaica again, this time for England where he died in 1940. His body was brought back to Jamaica in 1964 and buried in National Heroes' Park in Kingston.

The redemption of “Africans at home and abroad” was Garvey's lifelong mission. It is no wonder that a quote from one of his most famous speeches would be immortalised by another leader in the struggle for black liberation, Bob Marley, in Redemption Song: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.”

Functions of the New Hero - Leaping back to the Future

After the struggles of the magnificent seven and the thousands who fought with them from enslavement to independence, looking for the hero to succeed them and to complete the journey for a just and stable society will be no mean feat for the newcomer. Every nation has had its hardships to bear and new challenges to face. How it deals with them is the measure of success or failure of a generation.

The present generation is struggling over a spate of murders with its underpinning weakened by corruption. With National Heroes Day only weeks away, time is running out for an announcement that we have found the eighth hero to stabilise the society and bring about peace and prosperity to the nation.

Murder escalating at an alarming rate (sometimes two per day) to devastate the nation, and scamming (corruption by another name) in government and in private business sapping the best efforts of the people for better to come, are the problems of the present generation.

In practice for security of the nation, these problems are somewhat bound to each other like Siamese twins you can't deal with one without dealing with the other. This results from what National Hero Manley called a corruption of conscience, which is what the new hero must clear as the function for “reconstructing the social and economic society and life of Jamaica”.

Garvey foresaw the shocks and pitfalls on the way after independence, and how to achieve the mission of the present generation. What hero is there who can free individuals of the mind to kill each other for whatever reason much less to satisfy some perceived personal grievance? Or what alchemy is there to suppress the desire in the mind of leaders to satisfy personal pecuniary interest while in office? The psychiatrist will say that these patterns of behaviour result from the unguarded release of people after centuries of subjugation where they were deprived of their humanity, which now only time and themselves can cure.

A cynic would expect the new national hero to withdraw from independence and return to the good old days when Jamaica executed murderers, rather than allowing for violent crimes to continue with general disorder as the culture of the nation. Said cynic, for the same reason, would also expect the new hero to abolish ministries for self-government and re-introduce the cat-o-nine for leaders who corruptly function in their own pecuniary interest, regardless of the accepted standards for leading a new generation.

Notwithstanding the cynic, for me the most persistent and insidious obstruction to reconstructing the social and economic life of Jamaica is the reluctance or inability of many of us to recognise, accept, and enforce the fundamental rights and freedoms of the others of us. This is to say, after 300 years of colonial rule it has not been possible to free minds of subjugation and dependency of colonial rule by 57 years of independence. For this I point a finger directly at the legal profession from which judges are drawn and many legislators are elected.

Jamaica has done well so far, considering the social and economic burdens carried over into independence, but great caution is advised going forward when we are repeating the same mistake over and over, expecting a different result to combat crime. It is sad to hear the minister of national security bemoaning the failure of social intervention in Montego Bay, introduced as an answer to crime with a State of Public Emergency in the entire parish as the last resort to get the gunmen and reduce murder. That response to crime is replicated at various hot spots in the island like a whirlwind for clearance with unquantified benefits for the rights and freedoms of both victim and offender, and the best interest of the community involved.

A policy to hold and punish offenders has never worked from the days of slavery. What is needed is to investigate and rehabilitate. Neither the police force nor the army is structured to deal with crime in that way; and I respectfully add, neither are the courts or the prisons.

To jump backward into the future, if my memory serves me right, it was the lawyers who pushed for a Bail Act when judges were not seen as acting as the guardians of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual. How can a government in a free and democratic country entertain an application to amend the Bail Act to allow for longer periods in custody for people arrested or detained but not charged for an offence, especially when there was no need for a Bail Act when there was always the constitutional right to be taken before a court without delay if not released? Bail should only arise after a person has been charged for an offence and is to be taken to a court.

Individual freedom is an inherent human right and the Charter of Rights provides at article 14, “No person shall be deprived of his liberty except on reasonable grounds and in accordance with fair procedures established by law.”

There are good judges and others to enforce the right to liberty for every person in Jamaica. This calls for liberated minds, such as judges, to determine the reasonable grounds for depriving a person of his liberty and standard of proof for reasonable grounds. There is an obligation on the legal profession to monitor and plead for the observance of these rights without having to awaken the parliamentary opposition from their slumber to pass a law.

Moving one rung lower on the ladder of justice is the thought of allowing the prosecution the right of appeal from an acquittal of a criminal charge, and the proposal for trial by judge alone for some serious charges. This is after a reduction of jurors from 12 and removal of the unanimous verdict for a conviction of murder.

Somewhere, someone lacks confidence in either the system or their own ability in administering the system for a fair trial with a just result, without abrogating traditional rights of people presumed to be innocent. This is going back to the past where none shall escape the long arm of the enforcer of selective justice.

Frank Phipps is a veteran attorney-at-law


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