True freedom should reflect in standard of living – Ryan
For Jamaicans the period August 1 to 6, referred to as Emancipendence in Jamaica, is a time for reflection and celebration of freedom from slavery and oppression. It is said that during this time in 1834, the Emancipation Declaration was read from the steps of the Old King’s House in Spanish Town, St Catherine, which was the country’s capital at the time.
However, Omar Ryan, advocate for the development of St Thomas, believes that Emancipation goes beyond a paper signed or an announcement made.
“Firstly, for me, Emancipation should be an experience, and so far, I do not think we as a nation and as a parish have been collectively emancipated from the shackles of oppression that characterise the institutions that structure the society.
“For example in the area of justice many of the laws are passed on and saved from slavery and colonial days which have prevented our people from attaining true self-empowerment,” he contended.
True emancipation, according to the Founder of the St Thomas Heritage and Poetry Festival, should not only be a state of mind but must also be reflected in standard of living and infrastructure.
“Economically, many families are living on squatter land, in relative poverty, unattached and lacking access to resources to transform their lives. They don’t own land, they don’t have capital and so the poverty cycle continues for most of our people,” he said.
Independence debate needed
Ryan, who was once arrested for organising a mass demonstration in the parish over the deplorable conditions of the road, said that the people of St Thomas and the wider Jamaica have further to go where Independence is concerned.
In fact, he is of the view that discussions should be held with the country’s leadership to establish what Independence really means for the people and the way forward.
“There is still the Queen of England that is the head of the country and many of the colonial vestiges still persist, therefore the institutions do not represent an independent people and do not serve the mass of the people,” he asserted.
He said that St Thomas, for instance, still lacked a proper road network and the majority of its residents are not hopeful for a bright future.
“Until we have infrastructure that mirrors the best of the First World and opportunities are seen to be available and taken advantage of by the common folk like me and you and their lives are transformed, then we could truly say we are experiencing the best of Emancipation and Independence.”