Monumental error - Labour minister ironically misses mark in lamenting lack of knowledge about historical sites
Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson yesterday demonstrated in dramatic fashion, how the lack of information about Jamaica's cultural heritage is undermining its development, when she referred to a memorial in "Highgate, St Mary, to four workers who lost their lives during the 1938 uprising", which Gleaner research has shown does not exist.
"We are cognisant of the need for more Jamaicans to understand and appreciate the sacrifices of our forefathers in engendering workers' rights and privileges ... . We will not overlook the Workers' Park at Frome in Westmoreland or the memorial in Highgate, St Mary, to four workers who lost their lives during the 1938 uprising, or the Tacky Monument in Port Maria," Robinson told the congregation at the Portmore New Testament Church of God in St Catherine.
However, checks by The Gleaner found no record of any memorial to workers in Highgate, St Mary. In fact, the memorial that pays tribute to Caleb Barrett, Archibald Franklin, Thaddeus Smith and Felix McLeggon, who were killed during the uprising on June 3, 1938, is actually located in Islington in the parish. It stands on private property in a yard once owned by Exman Young.
Delivering greetings at the National Workers' Week and Labour Day thanksgiving church service, Robinson lamented the lack of information to get youngsters to appreciate the sacrifices made by their ancestors and emphasised the importance of monuments in helping to address the data shortfall.
"As a country, we have been witnessing a paucity of inform-ation about our past and those persons who have struggled to give us our rich heritage. Monu-ments help us share the spaces of our ancestors and generations before us. Monuments can even bring vibrant economic returns, as heritage tourism can generate investment, employment, revenue, and contribute to growth and prosperity.
"More important, our monu-ments represent the spirit and determination of our ancestors and, indeed, reinforce the need to persevere," she declared.
Writing in The Sunday Gleaner of May 28, 2006, politician-turned-historian Arnold Bertram called attention to the price Jamaica will ultimately pay if it continues to relegate the significance of the 1938 riots to a mere footnote of history.