Western Jamaica pays respects to Sir Howard
Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
HUNDREDS OF persons, young and old, from across western Jamaica, on Tuesday, hailed Sir Howard Cooke, Jamaica's former governor general, as the quintessential statesman, as they streamed into the lower hall of the Montego Bay Cultural Centre in Sam Sharpe Square to pay their last respects.
People who entered the room were directed by members of the security forces to view the body and were also invited to sign a condolence book.
Custos rotulorum of St James, Ewen Corrodus, led the mourners, which included deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Lloyd B. Smith; mayor of Montego Bay, Glendon Harris; and deputy mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Michael Troupe.
"He was a people person ... regardless of how big or how small you were, he was there for you," said Corrodus. "He has made his mark here in St James ... a tremendous person, affectionately called 'teacher' by everybody. Personally, he has been a great friend."
"He was not a political person, meaning that, whether you are PNP (People's National Party) or JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) or no 'Ps' at all, he did not deal with you as such, he would deal with you as a son or daughter of St James," added the custos.
Harris said Sir Howard was a strong advocate for the downtrodden and hailed him as the people's champion.
CHAMPION OF THE PEOPLE
"It was a very good thing that Montegonians and the general public of western Jamaica got a chance to see him lying in state," the mayor said. "He was the champion of the people of Montego Bay and western Jamaica. He stood up at Flankers when they were going to bulldoze their houses and said 'bulldoze me, but leave the people's place... .' He was a teacher, preacher, social worker and a great son who made a tremendous contribution to Jamaica."
Political historian Shalman Scott said Sir Howard would be greatly missed for his pioneering work and his care for the poor and the dispossessed.
"He was the quintessential Jamaican; an embodiment of the evolution of Jamaica both in terms of economic development, political development, and social and religious development. He was an outstanding parliamentarian and outstanding minister of social security and pensions and minister of the public service. An avid sportsman, he represented the county of Cornwall team for several years as captain," said Scott.
Collen Beckford-Davis, entrepreneur, said she greatly appreciated the gesture of bringing Sir Howard's body to Montego Bay.
"I think it was a good gesture. I am glad they included us because I was a bit worried about going to Kingston for the funeral. So I won't have to go now, as I have seen him. I did not know him personally, but I grew up hearing about him and, during his tenure, he was a good governor general," noted Davis.
Sir Howard, who died on Friday, July 11, at age 98, served as governor general of Jamaica from 1991 to 2006, ending 70 years of public service.
He was previously an elected member of the West Indies Federal Parliament in 1958, and a member of the first Parliament of Independent Jamaica in 1962.
He will be buried today at the National Heroes Park, Kingston.