Fri | Oct 23, 2020

Ronald Thwaites | Freedom ­­– the unfinished project

Published:Monday | August 3, 2020 | 12:12 AM

Several persons called into the radio programme last Friday to express disappointment at the unfulfilled emancipendence which Jamaica celebrates this week. Their depression is understandable.

These are the days of the latest chapter of the education/CMU scandal, the gangrene at the JUTC and the 1838 and 1865 replay of land starvation in St Thomas, Trelawny, St Elizabeth and all over the nation.

Parliament has given itself undeserved vacation without discussing, even showing concern, let alone resolving, the realities of an economy and exchange rate skidding downward, uncertain back-to-school issues, careless abridgement of liberty during the SOE, and the assault on personal dignity in the court’s declaration against a little girl’s harmless Afrocentric religious preferences.

Does all this not amount to a tacit declaration of incapacity or unwillingness to deal with these real issues which collide with notions of emancipation and independence?

Face it, despite the facile optimism that the tourists soon come and that cement is selling, where is the foreign exchange going to come from to pay for the unsatiated import of fuel, cars, food, expatriated profits, false hair, bleaching cream and the other stuff which we refuse to do without or make do for ourselves? Which minister is speaking to the splurge in food prices?


I guess we answered ourselves last week in the further expansion of gambling, that real opiate of the bewitched, which produces nothing but facilitates the self-rape by the poor of equally impoverished poor to the certain benefit of the already rich and the tax collector. What madness!

One of our more self-photographed glitterati is quoted as saying that “poverty sucks”. It does. But poverty of mind and spirit sucks even worse than bruk-pocket.

So among my heroes this emancipendence are the displaced workers and other trying souls who have negotiated to lease abandoned cane lands in south Clarendon to produce food for themselves and for sale. I applaud their Custos Billy Shagoury, who has pitched in with machinery to add technology to their effort. That’s what people of means should do so as to honour themselves and enable those who enrich them. Thus “he who gathered much had no excess and he who gathered little had no lack” (2nd Corinthians 8.15).

Just figure what a surge in confidence, revenue and social order there would be if this model was adopted nationwide.

Then there is the strong, poor, ‘God-mother’ whose child, by her constant sacrifice and persistence, has made it to the best-regarded high school, who, when told by some stupid politician that there are no auxiliary fees to be paid, says “nothing no go so. If it good, something must pay towards it”, and who insists on offering the principal $1,000 a month towards the fee.

It would offer billions to a resource-strapped school system and, more significantly, infuse the yeast of moral and social responsibility, if this were universal.

Then there was the guinep seller who, when the change dropped from the driver’s hand as the light changed, ran after the moving car to hand it back.


It is a great blessing to be a Jamaican. We are a human-sized people where everyone avoids the anomie of mass society and the claustrophobia of a micro-state. For me, the Jamaican sense of humour is the biggest grace God has given us. The patience and generosity of those who have needlessly suffered so long is beyond comprehension in its virtue.

The freedoms enshrined in our Charter of Rights offer great scope for personal achievement even as they are under assault from greedy guinea hogs and the punch-drunk apathy of the underclass where many still confuse liberty with self-serving habit and the absence of restraint.

The holy restlessness of this emancipendence week is grounded in the conviction that we could do so much better for ourselves with what we have. Present disease and muted celebration is not only COVID-19-borne but because we are a blessed people and that the debased notion of ‘prassperty’ really need not be such a lie and could be an advancing reality in our time.

The closest historical parallel I can draw is the 1834-1838 period when our people, saddled with a prejudiced and unworkable apprenticeship regime, unfinished freedom, combined and strove with the zeal of those recently released from captivity, to break out and build anew.

Could we be at that point of inflection again in this ever unfinished project?

Holiday blessings to all.

Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Kingston Central. Email feedback to