Excellent feature marred by careless errors

Published: Sunday | January 6, 2013 Comments 0
In this 1963 Gleaner photograph, Prime Minister Alexander Bustamante (right) greets cousin and Opposition Leader Norman Manley at South Parade. At left is JDF chief of staff, Brigadier Paul Crook.
In this 1963 Gleaner photograph, Prime Minister Alexander Bustamante (right) greets cousin and Opposition Leader Norman Manley at South Parade. At left is JDF chief of staff, Brigadier Paul Crook.

Troy Caine, Contributor

THE EXCELLENT keepsake publication titled 'They helped to build our nation ... saluting those who served' supplemented in The Gleaner (November 27 and 29) became such a good idea marred by so many careless, blatant errors.

Consequently, one has to conclude that it was either a case of inadequate research, or not enough attention paid to the simple, authentic and genuine facts relating to those great Jamaicans featured.

Arthur Wint

For instance, it is a known fact that Calabar was Arthur Wint's school where his athletic prowess began, yet we are told that "He went on to be Champion Boy Athlete of Jamaica in 1937 at Excelsior College ... ."

Well, after becoming Class Three champion in the only Class Three events at the time (100 yards and 220 yards) in both 1932 and 1933, when Calabar reigned at Champs, Wint went on to establish his prominence in the Class Two high jump, long jump and 440 yards in 1935 and 1936. He then dominated the Class One 220 yards and 440 yards, and took second places in the 120 yards hurdles and long jump in 1937, which earned him the Class One Champion Boy status for Calabar, scoring 10 of the 171/2 points which placed them third that year.

Excelsior High School, founded only six years earlier, was not yet an entrant at Champs and, indeed, did not score a single point at Champs until 1952 when D. Malcolm placed fourth in the Class Two 220 yards and became the first student to give them that one point.

John Pringle

The feature on John Pringle, Jamaica's first director of tourism who was "founder and chairman of the innovative resort Round Hill ... located in Montego Bay, St James" must be an account of somewhere else, other than the Round Hill Hotel known by everyone to be located on the north-eastern coast of Hanover, some 10 miles due west of Montego Bay and close to the town of Hopewell. Even in Pringle's time, when only a few hotels were situated west of the Great River and when it might have been grouped with Montego Bay's huge collection of hotels, Round Hill was still a Hanover icon and never a part of St James.

Noel Nethersole

Regarding Noel Nethersole, we are told how he attained " ... the pinnacle of his professional voyage" by becoming "... the first-ever minister of finance for Jamaica. This was a significant feat, as he was the second minister in the Jamaican Government." Really? So what was Sir Harold Allan, 1944-1953 and Donald Sangster, 1953-1955? Weren't they Jamaica's first and second ministers of finance, respectively, before Nethersole became the third (and the People's National Party's [PNP] first) minister of finance in 1955? Must anyone be reminded that Jamaica's modern political history did not commence with the PNP's first victory in 1955?

As for "second minister in a Jamaican Government", I can only assume the writer meant that Mr Nethersole was Mr Manley's deputy (which he was), since he was the PNP's first vice-president during that first PNP administration with an initial Cabinet of eight ministers.

One of the brightest and most articulate minds produced by the PNP, Noel Nethersole, like Norman Manley, was a casualty of the 1944 election, but he subsequently trounced his old rival, Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) icon Lynden Newland twice (1949 and 1955) in Central St Andrew (now mostly South St Andrew), before his untimely death in March 1959, leaving a political legacy in the area largely inherited by party beneficiaries such as Vernon Arnett, Tony Spaulding and Dr Omar Davies.

Michael Manley

Of Michael Manley, we are informed that " ... he lost his first election but never lost hope ... ." What first election was that? If it is a reference to the 1967 general election, well, that was not Michael's election. It was his dad's final election and he lost it. Michael might have scraped home with the tiniest margin of 43 votes, but he was a winner - and an even more massive winner in his other first election as PNP president in 1972.

Alexander Bustamante

According to this feature, Alexander Bustamante " ... returned to his homeland in 1938 an affluent young man." Actually, Bustamante returned to Jamaica in 1934, which was when he began his activity as a prolific letter-writer to the press. By 1938, he had already founded the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union and was Jamaica's major labour leader. At age 50 in 1934, he could hardly be described as a "young man", especially since just nine years later, he would become the oldest elected Member of the House of Representatives (MHR) at age 60, when most people were retiring from public service.

It is rather unfortunate that the text on Sir Alexander Bustamante omitted his first milestone victory in 1944, the seminal achievement of his political career, when he became Jamaica's first political leader to be elected to office in that first general election under adult suffrage. Serving as "mayor of Kingston in 1947 and 1948" was only possible due to his status as the elected MHR for West Kingston, which (in those days) automatically made him an ex officio member of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation.

Norman Manley

But the narrative on Norman Manley contained perhaps the most inaccuracies and historical distortions. "When Jamaicans were finally given the opportunity to decide who would lead the country, they voted and declared" Alexander Bustamante the first majority leader (in 1944) and the first chief minister (in 1953) - not Mr Manley. His time came a decade later in 1955 when he succeeded Bustamante, first as chief minister, then he later became premier in 1957, following further Constitutional changes.

The title of premier was, therefore, lost to Bustamante with the PNP's defeat in 1962, and he held it for six months before becoming Jamaica's first prime minister in August of that year. So, how could Mr Manley lose "his prime ministerial post" when he never became prime minister?

Furthermore, Norman Manley neither founded, "established" nor "named" the PNP, as asserted in the feature and as is now so relentlessly advocated and pursued by so many publications, speeches and quiz competitions.

It is well known that Mr Manley was merely solicited to lead the party after it was formed and organised around an impressive core-group of individuals, mostly from the earlier-formed National Reform Association.

These were people like O.T. Fairclough, Noel Nethersole, Ken Hill, Frank Hill, Vernon Arnett, Dr Ivan Lloyd, Florizel Glasspole, Wills O. Isaacs, H.P. Jacobs, Adolphe Roberts, W.A. Domingo, and others. Indeed, when Mr Manley eventually consented (with some persuasion from his wife, Edna), he disclaimed any credit as author of the party's foundation and hailed the real founders in his inaugural address as first president in September 1938.

Norman Manley's leadership of the PNP became the best thing that ever happened to the party and party politics in Jamaica, and today, 74 years later, his 31-year leadership still remains the best, the most inspiring and the most productive period of the party's history. But the current habit to blow up Mr Manley's accomplishments out of proportion is actually doing a grave injustice to the memory of this great man, who generally abhorred fables about his political life. Accuracy must be of the essence, especially with the interaction of younger minds.

Adult Suffrage

Finally, as we approach the 68th Anniversary of Jamaica's first election, let us not forget that the PNP only led the way in advocating for adult suffrage. They did not lead "the way in establishing Universal Adult Suffrage", which was granted to the island as one of the conditions enshrined in the New Constitution of 1944.

However, as we acknowledge Bustamante and Norman Manley as the cousins who "fought for Jamaicans to have their own government, advocating for all to be able to vote", we must never lose sight of the fact that perhaps far more than Busta and Manley, it was James Alexander George Smith, Sr, that great barrister and legislator of the old political system (prior to '44), who largely started it all by putting the most pressure on the British Colonial Office, marshalling and lobbying for Jamaica's self-determination throughout his 25 years as the Member of the Legislative Council for Clarendon. J.A.G. Smith's outstanding career and contribution to this country are well documented and he truly deserves to be one of the greats featured in this very useful series.

Troy Caine is a political historian and analyst. Send comments to columns@gleanerjm.com.

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