WHEN JAMAICA gained Independence 50 years ago, Prime Minister Sir Alexander Bustamante underscored the importance of the occasion in a most surreal way.
"Independence means the opportunity for us to frame our own destiny and the need to rely on ourselves in so doing. It does not mean a licence to do as we like. It means work and law and order," Bustamante said in his message to the nation.
It was a message that spoke to national pride and responsibility. We wonder what Bustamante would have said if he were here today.
The Gavel, like so many Jamaicans, is of the view that much of our Independence has been wasted. Unlike what Bustamante suggested, we believe that the vast majority of our leaders since Independence have interpreted the public's confidence, exercised though the ballot, as a licence to do as they like.
Bustamante and Norman Manley were selfless nationalists who gave of themselves in order to advance the cause of Jamaica. They were clear about the Jamaican Dream and set out conscientiously to build the foundation for the attainment of same.
Manley, for example, recognised that the dream would be a work in progress. A clear indication of this was in his last public address to an annual conference of the People's National Party when he said: "I say that the mission of my generation was to win self-government for Jamaica. To win political power, which is the final power for the black masses of my country from which I spring. I am proud to stand here today and say to you who fought that fight with me, say it with gladness and pride: 'Mission accomplished for my generation.'
"And what is the mission of this generation? ... It is ... reconstructing the social and economic society and life of Jamaica."
We are not convinced that the post-Busta/Manley generation can claim to have significantly advanced the social and economic society and life of Jamaica. In fact, we just have to look at all the economic and social indicators, which are well known, to prove the point that we have wasted our Independence.
Recently, a Rastafarian suggested that Jamaica's 50th anniversary should exclude politicians. The Rastafarian said the people should use Jamaica 50 as an occasion to celebrate their resilience against bad governance.
We do not, for one minute, suggest that our political leaders have operated against the interest of the people. Indeed, we believe much has been accomplished over the last 50 years, but we are unconvinced that our leaders have done all they should have.
The time, therefore, has come for reflection and introspection. On Thursday, there will be a joint meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives at Gordon House. This should be more than a showpiece Jamaica 50 event. Instead, it should be used as a springboard from which the agenda for the next 50 years is launched.
The time has long passed for another generation of political leaders to say, 'Mission accomplished!' It would, therefore, be useful for all of us to consider Bustamante's charge 50 years ago when he urged us to "go forward together into the future with faith, courage and dedication".
There is no time to waste.
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