Dreaming with Norman, Lisa and MarkSunday, October 25, 2020
SEEKING answers on the hard road we must travel to restoration and renewal, it was fortuitous and perhaps natural that in a dream last Thursday, I found myself in the exalted company of our founding president and national hero, Norman Washington Manley.
There he was with furrowed brow, among a patch of hallowed trees in the solemn solitude of nature's glory. For a second I thought we were at Drumblair, his storied home where long ago brilliance gathered to chart the course for a better Jamaica. But it was not. Betrayed by the tall, whistling pines that seemed to touch the clouds, it must have been Nomdmi, his Blue Mountain retreat from painful political battles lost and grave disappointments in bettering the lot of the working man. How fitting a setting to recharge and renew for the task at hand, I thought, standing in awe at the legendary jurist of whom former Chief Justice Sir John Carberry once wrote of a time when they were young men in practice:
“Many of us leaned on him in those early days; he leaned on nobody.”
Then just before the great man greeted me, “It's good that you could come,” there were Lisa Hanna and Mark Golding breathlessly trotting up the misty mountainside in animated shout, “Wait, Comrade Buck, we were invited too”, to which I responded, “I am only a silent witness here.”
As they reached the steps of his secluded cottage, the old leader graciously welcomed both presidential candidates: “How nice that you have come together. Comrade Hanna, your beauty, intelligence and charm precede you; and Comrade Golding I knew your father well and from afar I have noted his innate goodness in you. Your visit comes at a moment of destiny. Let us walk in the woods for a while.” He then began to offer building blocks to our party's redemption. “The first matter at hand is the healing process, which begins with the reaffirmation of comradeship. The term 'Comrade' came out of our Fabian socialist past but importantly, gained deeper meaning during the early days after our founding. It was a time when our members were harassed, beaten, killed and expelled from the streets by JLP roughhouse supporters. However, led by Vice-President Ken Hill, Wills O Isaacs and myself, we stood our ground, fought back and allowed our party to survive. So I appeal to both of you to recertify the political power of the word comrade, it is key to the unity and love that must be part of the transformation process.”
He then paused, looked down the winding valley at far away Kingston, shook his head and after a few moments, further accentuated the profundity of the term by reciting the names of loyal Comrades who fought with him on forbidden paths where our lambs now safely graze. Despite the trance-like disposition of the dream, we heard his clear admonition:
“Go back and tell them who C omrades were, the love they showed each other and the people. Tell them about the first of them, a Calabar man, our undisputed founder, O T Fairclough; Noel Newton Nethersole, my great friend and JC schoolmate, a Rhodes scholar who became the most outstanding finance minister Jamaica and the Caribbean have known; tell them of Vernon Leonard Arnett, who not only followed 'Crab' Nethersole as finance minister but also MHR for South St Andrew as well.” By now he seemed a little angry, but continued:
“Let them know of Kenneth George Hill, the Georgian who became a brilliant labour leader, an invaluable organiser of the national movement who won West Kingston at the expense of Hugh Lawson Shearer, covering for Bustamante in his retreat to the safety of Clarendon. Yes, tell young Dwayne Vaz to research the life of FLB Evans, whom the people lovingly called 'Slave Boy', who after winning Eastern Westmoreland by over 7,000 votes as an Independent in 1944 left the safety of his constituency, ran under the banner of the PNP in Western Westmoreland which included a part of Central Westmoreland, overcoming the JLP's Clifford Campbell's 8,590 margin and winning by a further 2,050 votes. There were the women too, Comrades like Edith Dalton James, the path-breaking educator; Iris King who won West Kingston in 1955; and Aggie Bernard, the heroine of the 1938 workers' strike. These were but a few of the Comrades whose contributions, temperament and decency the present generation must emulate.”
Turning to Lisa specifically, he continued: “One of the first Comrades to answer the call was Dr Ivan Lloyd. I singled him out as my colleagues and I am gravely disturbed that the legacy of his service to the nation and memory may be blotted out if his old seat now in trouble goes to the JLP. Let me go further on why you must erase the marginality of SE St Ann. As medical officer for St Ann in the 1930s, it was Dr Ivan Lloyd who led the eradication of the cholera outbreak and again in 1941, along with his wife, set up a makeshift clinic in Claremont market for 74 hours non-stop, treating over 1,000 people without charge in overcoming the yaws epidemic. And the people never forgot, showing their undying gratitude by not only electing Dr Lloyd repeatedly but every PNP candidate since then.
“Beyond that, when I lost in 1944, he led the party valiantly as Opposition Leader in the House. Notwithstanding the outcome of your campaign for the presidency, seek forgiveness from your people and return the Moneague division to our column. One more thing, lobby for a statue of Dr Lloyd to be erected in Claremont Square and bring eternal glory to his name.”
In response Lisa was noticeably penitent: “I have made errors. I will show humility and lead the change. I will not fail, my leader.”
Then addressing both of them, he continued, “The second major rebuilding tool involves the reform of the groups. They constitute the foundation of the party and also act as its agency of recruitment. Group leaders were once guardians of the party's democratic tradition but they were of a different ilk. Additionally, the agenda of group meetings must be modernised to attract and meet the interest of the changing demographics and new membership.
“On another critical issue, the selection of candidates must be driven by reputable polls of the entire constituency and not remain the exclusive responsibility of group delegates, which in some cases constitute less than two per cent of eligible voters. Our candidates should reflect the preference of the wider community except where polling is close, [then] the group delegates should decide”.
With the weeping winds accompanied by a slight drizzle blowing eerie, nostalgic songs in the fading dusk, the old warrior at the urging of his wife Edna, the renowned sculptress and patron of the arts, beckoned us to the basic comforts of his unpretentious cottage.
After a brief respite, the champion athlete, mathematics teacher, war hero and Rhodes Scholar of 1914, turned to Mark. “I see you have pledged to treat with the vast inequality in the country. It is good that you are in corporate law, as significant legislation will be needed to close the vast inequity gap. I must tell you that in 1951 I worked with Sir Harold Allan, the independent member from East Portland, on a special finance committee which drafted legislation for a capital gains tax which was never implemented. You must finish the task, as time and fate disallowed both of us. It is one of the keys to break the growing disparities between the rich and the poor. In the same vein, corporate mergers and monopolies must be subjected to regulation and control. Importantly too, legislation and incentives should be prescribed for the banking sector to encourage loans to depositors from poor communities. I hope you will not fail the people in that endeavour.”
Soon, the once formidable horseman began to tire and deferred to Edna's advice to rest, but not before promising to continue the policy discussions on our next visit.
At the door, he held the hands of Lisa and Mark in unison, demanding their joint pledge to blend their positives in lifting the party, whatever the outcome on November 7. This they did as we bid farewell to our legendary leader and his wife. Then suddenly the majestic swaying pines stood still, allowing the great man to retire in reverent respite. Looking back one last time, I thought I had seen a tear or two running down his cheeks. In that instant, I remembered the same sense of sadness on meeting him in my childhood, at Woodrow Street and Manning's Street, Jones Town during in the vicious crucible of the 1960s. Having lost the elections of 1962 and 1967, it was a time not very dissimilar from our present circumstance with the party at its lowest ebb.
For Norman Manley there would be no more laurel wreaths of victory. Years before, the gods had decreed that he who led the fight for self-government to the river's edge would not be allowed to cross the torrid waters to economic justice on the other side. That continuing struggle is now left to Mark and Lisa's generation. So on the second of September 1969, when Kenny McNeill won the by-election for his old seat, he was in a coma, already 'on his way to the gates of gold'. But in heaven he learnt of his party's joyful rebound and his son Michael's massive victory in 1972. In that moment I understood the true meaning of the dream and related its import to Lisa and Mark. Without equivocation they too understood and proclaimed; “There will be better days and our party will be alright.”
Trekking home through the rapidly dissipating mist to meet their rendezvous with history, I smiled as Mark placed his arm gently on Lisa's shoulder, fully aware that after the darkness of the night, morning comes.
Paul Buchanan is a member of the People's National Party, and former Member of Parliament for St Andrew West Rural.
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