Thu | Jan 18, 2018

Senate president urges support for Marcus Garvey petitition

Published:Sunday | September 25, 2016 | 6:18 PM
Senate President Tom Tavares Finson

Jamaica's Senate President Tom Tavares Finson said it would be a "travesty" if a petition to have United States President Barack Obama pardon Marcus Garvey of a criminal conviction does not get the required support.

The petition requires at least 94,171 signatures by Wednesday to get a response.

"It's not the first time approaches have been made to the president of the United States for his presidential pardon," Tavares Finson said at Friday's meeting of the Upper House of Parliament.

"It is hoped that this time around, the petition will be successful. I urge all of you (Senators), not only to sign the online petition, but to encourage persons, who may not be aware of it or may not be inclined so to do, to sign the petition."

Data from the White House shows that petition had 5,829 signatures up to 5 o'clock this afternoon.

"Would it not be a travesty if that petition must be found short of the 100,000 signatures?" Tavares Finson said.

Leader of Opposition Business Mark Golding, who said he has signed the petition, also urged Jamaicans to support the petition.

"If this opportunity is lost and the Jamaican Diaspora and Jamaicans here on the Rock don't support it in sufficient numbers, it would really show a level of apathy which could be difficult for some. This is an opportunity with President Obama nearing the end of his term as the first black American president to really bring home the need for this pardon," he said.

Portia Simpson Miller, during her tenure as prime minister, had raised the issue of pardoning Garvey with Obama during an official visit here last year.

However, those talks did not yield any results.

Now advocates want Obama, who formally demits office in January, to exercise his executive powers to pardon Garvey.

Garvey was convicted of mail fraud in 1923 and deported four years later.

However, scholars largely agree that Garvey's charge was trumped-up.

Garvey is seen as an inspirational leader whose message of black consciousness resonated not only in the United States but also with the establishment of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) that attracted more than six million members in 40 countries.

Steven Golding, head of the UNIA, attended the Senate meeting.