Michael Manley would get the nod, but views mixed on a new national heroMonday, October 18, 2021
By Candice Haughton
With the annual revival of the debate about appointing a new national hero, thanks to the National Heroes' Day celebrations, Jamaicans have continued to be divided in their views, with some saying the country is ready for a new national hero, while others believe that it's not necessary.
Always a popular choice among those who want to see another hero named, late Prime Minister Michael Manley was deemed worthy by Dr Anna Perkins, senior programme officer in the Quality Assurance Unit at The University of the West Indies, Mona, because of his “impactful contribution to the country's development”.
“I think, whether we want to accept it or not, he has been the best prime minister that Jamaicans had,” Perkins insisted. “There's no doubt that he had flaws because he's very much human. But, I think that the way politics was understood at that particular time in our political history, it's such a far walk away from where we are today, sadly,” she continued.
Adding that, in her estimation Manley was a beacon of what political leadership is meant to be, Perkins further stated that, “We have walked away from the ideology and principles of philosophy [ questioning] why do we do what we do, why is what we are doing meaningful. So much was accomplished under him. We think about how women were advanced significantly under the work of the democratic socialist platform and workers rights and human rights.”
“He was a voice for the Caribbean and the Third World. I don't think we have ever had a prime minister that can touch Michael Manley,” she declared.
Perkins was supported by managing director at Pioneer Manufacturers Distributions, Alfred Thomas, who agreed that Manley should be the next national hero.
“My pick is Michael Manley. From 1972 onward, Michael Manley had a dream, especially for the young people of Jamaica. Allowing the young black Jamaicans to go to university and to be prepared for future leadership of the country at that time,” Thomas said.
He continued: “I went to Mico Teachers' College in 1973 – at that time Jamaica was only 11 years old as an independent nation. As a student at Mico I remember Michael Manley coming to Mico to speak to us and challenging us to get trained to go out to teach other young Jamaicans to prepare themselves for the future and to be leaders. So I was able to teach at Kingston Technical High School [and] help young Jamaicans there.”
Thomas went on to say that Manley made Jamaica into a “leading country” with his policies and advocacy for equality.
Marketing officer, Jhudini Reid echoed both Thomas and Perkins, saying, “I think it would be good if the Government made Michael Manley the next national hero. He was one of those prime ministers to actually brought about some form of change. He was one of those leaders who actually had the people in mind, whatever he did he thought about the nation, didn't think about the politics of it, he thought about the country and its people.”
Kingston College teacher, Sherika Edwards said that, while she doesn't necessarily believe the country needed another national hero, if she were to choose Manley would be the best possible choice.
“I don't think Jamaica should select another national hero because I am not able to think of anyone who has made such a great contribution in comparison to the others. In other words, live up to the great names in order to make Jamaica a better place. Maybe Michael Manley, he came close but what he did is not big enough in my mind,” Edwards stated.
While owner and founder of Caribbean Flavours, Anand James believed that Jamaica is ready for a new national hero, he gave the thumbs up to both reggae icon Bob Marley and poet Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett-Coverley.
“I think a national hero is somebody who made a massive contribution to the country. I think Bob Marley should be there, I think Miss Lou should be there, those are the two. You don't want to have too many national heroes because it has to be something dramatic [and] something lasting,” James told the Jamaica Observer.
Noting that both Marley and Miss Lou brought international recognition to the country in one way or the other, James said: “Our country always needs vibrancy, things to remind us where we are coming from, things to remind us what made us who we are and so every now and then we have to revitalise it, like any business.”
On the other hand, 29-year-old St Catherine resident, Dwight Gutzmer said in this day and age he is unconvinced that the masses are fit to elect anyone as national hero.
“In today's society the people we idolise are people who have a talent – musicians, track athletes – and people with a degree in anything, and they seldom have the strength of a Nanny or a Paul Bogle or a Marcus Garvey,” Gutzmer said.
“People today idolise social media celebrities and look past those in our society fighting for a cause, dismissing history as if they have not shared in the ill effects of it. I feel like we fi low dah national hero something deh to our kids, who are just now being taught critical thinking as a part of their basic school curriculum. We obviously missed the point.”