Thu | Dec 5, 2019

Douglas Vaz stood between Jamaica and communism – son

Published:Monday | November 11, 2019 | 12:30 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Douglas Vaz is seen here with his son, Daryl, in a February 19, 2010, Gleaner photograph. File
Douglas Vaz is seen here with his son, Daryl, in a February 19, 2010, Gleaner photograph. File

Despite his political career being birthed in tumult and foundering on upheaval in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Douglas Vaz was yesterday praised as a stalwart and a patriot.

Vaz, 82, died yesterday in his sleep, plunging his family and the wider JLP into mourning.

“It is with deep sadness that we learn of the passing of former Industry and Commerce Minister Douglas Vaz,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on his official Twitter page.

“Douglas Vaz served our party and Jamaica with distinction,” the prime minister added. “My thoughts are with the Vaz family at this time.”

Government Minister Daryl Vaz, who turned up at a party Area Council 1 meeting at Mona High School in Eastern St Andrew to cheers and greetings, paid tribute to his late father as a crucial link of an ideological buffer when Jamaica was a philosophical and bloody battleground in the Cold War era. His emergence came during the heights of political gangsterism and bloodlust that came to a climax in the 1980 general election.

“When everybody was fleeing Jamaica between 1976 and 1980, he was one of 13 members of parliament (MPs) that kept this country alive and well and kept the threat of socialism and communism away from Jamaica during that period under the leadership of none other than the late Edward Seaga,” the younger Vaz said.

“I learnt everything and every value that I have in how I serve the people and how I operate myself from the teachings of my father,” Vaz said, mentioning that the four-term member of parliament had always stood by him during difficult times.

The manufacturer-turned-politician joined the JLP the night the infamous 1976 state of emergency was declared by then Prime Minister Michael Manley, who led a People’s National Party (PNP) government weary of imperialist influences.

Born in Kingston on May 20, 1937, to Harold Vaz, garment manufacturer, and Lillian Reddish-Vaz, Douglas Vaz was first elected in Parliament in 1976, representing North Central St Andrew. He served in the Cabinet during the two Seaga administrations spanning 1980 to 1989.

The elder Vaz became MP for North East St Andrew for a single term when the constituency was created ahead of the 1989 general election but was defeated by the PNP’s Karlene Kirlew-Robertson four years later.

Kirlew-Robertson was also a one-term parliamentary representative for the constituency as she was defeated by Delroy Chuck in the 1997 election.

During his time in politics, Vaz encountered troubles in politics as he was part of the 1990 notorious ‘Gang of Five’ – Vaz, Ed Bartlett, Errol Anderson, Pearnel Charles, and Karl Samuda – a band of self-proclaimed reformists determined to wrest Seaga’s iron fist before being booted from his shadow Cabinet.

Vaz had called for Seaga to reunite the JLP on the principles of “mutual respect, equal rights and justice being observed by all and for all” and the full observance of the democratic rights of all party members.

Vaz stated that the fight was not with the JLP but with the “undemocratic manipulation of the machinery and constitution of the Labour Party”, and he decried Seaga’s invitation to “light a candle, sing a Sankey, and find your way back home” as humiliating.