Stories of the accomplishments of Jamaica's national heroes are threaded throughout our colourful history, and we expect that they will be told over and over during the coming days as the nation pays homage to its heroes past and present.
We commemorate these heroes for their national, political, historical and cultural significance to our country, and it is appropriate to tell these stories at a time when role models and inspirational figures are in woefully short supply.
This explains why this newspaper may have turned the spotlight on the decaying statues of Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley as they stand in St William Grant Park in downtown Kingston. The feature has ignited fresh debate about how we ought to treat our heroes and monuments. This debate is renewed at least once every year, but in the end nothing really changes.
We submit that any monument that includes the word 'national' in its title merits special attention. These are our national assets, they are symbols of what it means to be Jamaican, and they ought to be protected for future generations to be inspired by them. In reality, though, many of these monuments have been neglected since economic activities have generally taken priority over preservation issues.
First, we recognise that the natural ageing process will take its toll on some of these monuments, which means that consistent maintenance is vital to keep them protected and in good condition. But the funds to properly maintain our national monuments have far outstripped the budgetary allocation for many years. It is, therefore, not surprising that these many years of underfunding and neglect have taken their toll.
Neglecting national treasures
Only recently, the shambolic state of the Trelawny birthplace of former Prime Minister Hugh Shearer was highlighted in the press. The same kind of neglect is true of others who have served this country with distinction.
A national treasure like Hope Botanic Gardens would suffer the same fate were there no civic-minded individuals to commit their time and energies to restoring these gardens so that Jamaicans and their families can once again enjoy its beautiful flora and fauna.
We believe it is time for the introduction of a Monuments Protection Plan agreed by Government and Opposition. Such a plan could be carried out in tandem with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) to develop a framework for ensuring that resources are allocated to protection and maintenance efforts. The plan would identify and prioritise the allocation of resources to the monuments.
There is also an urgent need to improve public education and awareness of the importance of these monuments so that persons will not deface or destroy them. To demonstrate just how much we honour our national heroes, it is time to end the annual charade and do something tangible to really give them the respect that they deserve as symbols of pride and hope.
Beyond the public utterances are the emotions. These heroes have served their nation with passion and integrity, and we should always dignify their memory.
The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.