Leslene Davis, an extraordinary Jamaican
The late Leslene Davis

THE passing of Leslene Elaine Elizabeth Davis signals not only the end of an era within the People's National Party, which she served throughout her formative years, but within that special group of patriots who selflessly served the wider Jamaica.

The poet Thomas Gray in his Elegy written in a Country Churchyard, elegantly captures the fate of those cautious souls who choose not to add value to humankind – "Full many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air."

Leslene was never numbered among the docile, unsubstantial, aimlessly floating mass. She understood and followed clearly God's teaching, to use our talents to help others, to make a difference.

Interestingly, her entry into public life as an assistant to Robert Lightbourne — the legendary industrialist, Jamaica Labour Party stalwart, and Minister of Trade and Industry — tells of her nationalist instincts.

Caught up in Michael Manley's inexorable drive for social justice in an inequitable land, Leslene would next emerge in the progressive circle of Housing Minister Anthony Spaulding; DK Duncan, later to be appointed minister of national mobilisation; and earlier, her great friend, Minister of Tourism P J Patterson.

The turbulent 1970s was a time of momentous social transformation and egalitarian ferment, and Leslene participated with gusto. In fact, most of the verandah meetings were held at her Montclair Drive, Beverly Hills home, where she acted as convener, host and discussant. As projects manager, NHC and St Andrew Southern political functionary, I remember well her rising decibels in discourse regarding Michael's latest ideas on the major social legislations of the period.

I also recall her vigorous, unapologetic inputs at Tony's home at Clieveden Close, as he conceptualised a non-bank, State-managed repository of the peoples' deposits to finance the 40,000 housing revolution he was delivering. With Leslene in full support Tony would underline his position by relentless railings against the unconscionable, "rapacious" bank profits reaped from unjustified add-on fees.

Tony's concept accepted; financial regime designed by World Bank Jamaican economist Dr Fitz Ford; the overall process fine-tuned and finalised by Michael Manley; PJ Patterson would achieve consensus on the non-partisan governance structure, involving the unions, employers and relevant stakeholders. Thereafter, the National Housing Trust was born.

Leslene not only delved in housing concepts, she acted on them. She would spend the rest of her life providing secure tenure and housing decency for the working class, as a major land developer offering affordable shelter solutions throughout the country.

The list of projects and the relatively large number of completions by her companies, Landmark Developers and the Consortium Group, speak directly to her tenacity of purpose, wide knowledge of the sector, and abiding concern for a variety of unfulfilled housing demands. Among her offerings were: Gazeland Meadows, St Elizabeth (110 lots); Crane Ridge Comfort Suites Resort condominiums, St Ann; Liberty Estate and Three Hills, St Mary (1,100 solutions); Cedar Grove Estate, Gregory Park, St Catherine (1,200 solutions); and Diamond Court, Stony Hill, St Andrew (27 solutions).

But Leslene, the unquestioned patriot, also used her wide talents as patron of benevolent causes.

Always at the forefront of national philanthropic efforts, she showed her reach and coordinating skills in organising a highly successful benefit concert headlined by Harry Belafonte, on behalf of the health sector still reeling with the after-effects of Hurricane Gilbert which struck in 1988.

The multifaceted St Hugh's High School Alumni Association revealed the depth of her experience as an entrepreneur and creative practitioner in the garment and fashion industry, fish farming, and the tourism sector.

What an extraordinary woman! What a remarkable life of service! Her caring, humanity, and uncompromising agitation for good made us all larger and better. She confronted and conversed with prime ministers and the wealthy but was equally frank and at ease among the poor and voiceless.

As proclaimed by St Paul to his son Timothy at his end, Leslene Elaine Elizabeth Davis has fought the good fight, finished her course, and kept the faith. She goes now into the loving arms of her rewarding God. There she will meet at 'the rendezvous of victory' with her fellow purveyors of social justice: Michael, Tony and DK.

Rest well, my friend, rest well.

Paul Buchanan is a former Member of Parliament.

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