Mr 'Dunstan' Whittingham, man of the street, man of the peopleThursday, July 02, 2020
One could easily be forgiven for thinking that Mr Lionel “Dunstan” Whittingham has always been president of the Jamaica Vendors, Higglers, and Markets Association (JVHMA) because of his lifelong association with that organisation and his fearsome defence of the fraternity.
Indeed, the news reports of his death on Monday, June 29 across all media only mentioned his name in relation to the JVHMA, almost as if that were the sum total of his life. Admittedly, there is not much in the way of readily available biographical data on him floating around in media archives or online.
But Mr Whittingham was way more.
He served as a vital bridge across the uptown-downtown divide for local, regional and international organisations studying or reconstructing various aspects of social life in Jamaica, with special emphasis on women. And we know that market vendors are mostly women.
He was a member of the umbrella Association of Development Agencies (ADA), whose presence was mostly felt in the 1970s, 80s and 90s before its voice seemed to have been quieted, apparently due to a lack of financial support.
UNESCO and The University of the West Indies (UWI) found his experience invaluable as a leader in the Caribbean's largest business district in downtown Kingston, but also for his intimate knowledge of the hidden life of market vendors elsewhere in the capital.
For example, Mr Whittingham was a participant in the July 2001 research report on gender, peace and development in the Northern Caribbean, prepared for UNESCO under the auspices of The UWI Centre for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS).
He also participated in the May 2016 Caribbean Partnerships II: Co-Constructing Transformative Economic Policy: Exploring a Heterodox and Feminist Approach, sponsored by the IGDS, the Caribbean Development Bank, Frederich Ebert Stiftung, and the Regions Refocus at The UWI, St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago.
He co-chaired the Peace Consolidation subcommittee of the Partners for Peace, based at The UWI Faculty of Social Sciences and led by the late Professor Barry Chevannes. He was chairman of the Central Kingston Task Team seeking peace in that inner-city area and a member of the Central Community Development Association — Jamaica Lobbyist Action Enterprise.
As a businessman, Mr Whittingham was executive director of the Jamaica Higglers Import-Export Enterprise which he apparently founded and ran.
It is to his lasting credit that upon his passing he was lauded by both political parties, despite the crucible of conflict in which he operated in downtown Kingston. Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie, in his tribute, summed up the sentiments of the parties:
“Dunstan was a passionate and tireless advocate for the interests of vendors… He was a serious force to be reckoned with, and he commanded the unwavering loyalty and respect of the vendors. While he was quick to challenge what he saw as mistakes by local and central government in dealing with the vendors, he was not defiant of public order.
“He supported many of the KSAMC's initiatives to ensure harmony between business activity and good order and was not afraid to chastise conduct that was unruly.”
We extend sincere condolence to Mr Whittingham's family, friends and members of the JVHMA.
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