Holness: I respect, love Michael Manley
Prime Minister Andrew Holness used his 48th birthday to heap praise on the late Michael Manley’s campaign for social justice when his People’s National Party held state power in the 1970s.
Holness’ comments sought to cool public outrage by Manley loyalists over his criticism, two weeks ago, of ideological missteps of that troubled decade during the then prime minister’s first stint.
Holness did not name Manley, but his utterances were viewed as a telegraphed jab at a statesman whose left-of-centre politics has stoked intense admiration and condemnation more than two decades after his death.
Manley has been applauded for his promotion of social reforms but pilloried for his economic policies. His second premiership of 1989-1992 marked a paradigm shift in his economic philosophy.
Speaking at the launch of his High-Level Commission on Educational Transformation at Jamaica House on Wednesday, Holness said that his own mission of social justice and economic empowerment was inspired by Manley and his political mentor, Edward Seaga.
“So let me be clear to my friends and otherwise that I respect and love Michael Manley, and I value his work and his contribution to making us who we are. That can never be devalued, and I want to, therefore, put that to rest,” Holness said.
Recounting what he said was a “true story”, Holness said that his father, a lifelong socialist, was so elated with Manley’s 1972 victory at the polls that he insisted that his son bear the then prime minister’s name. Michael is Holness’ middle name.
Holness said that his father was inspired by the message of political empowerment and “smaddytisation” – the promotion of self-worth – and that Jamaicans should disentangle themselves from colonial thinking.
“Michael Manley said that we will walk on our two feet and not on our knees. I, Andrew Michael Holness, firmly believe in that,” the prime minister said.
But Holness emphasised that Jamaicans must seize the opportunities of a technological revolution “that is being accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and that has intensified the drive towards adaptation”.
The prime minister said that artificial intelligence, renewable energy, 3D manufacturing, and other innovations would be the planks of economic progress.
“Bauxite and tourism will not be able to pay for those goods. So it means it is either we don’t consume or we borrow. So if we are going to solve that problem, we must put ourselves in a position to produce.
“The issues of equity and social justice that are involved in that cannot, in itself, be ignored,” he said.
Opposition Spokesman on Education Peter Bunting said that the confidence of self-worth instilled in the children of the Manley era facilitated many people from humble beginnings becoming successful entrepreneurs in the decades thereafter.
“So I believe to guide the strategic path forward, we need a vision statement of the desired product of a transformed education system,” he said.
The High-Level Commission on Education Transformation is chaired by noted scholar Professor Orlando Patterson and includes Professors Eleanor Brown, Michael Taylor, and Maureen Samms-Vaughan, among others.