Jamaican lawmakers were in one accord yesterday as they gathered to pay respects to the former South African President Nelson Mandela. The prison-to-president icon died last week at age 95. Below are some of the comments made in Parliament yesterday during a joint sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which saw 19 members giving tributes.
Portia Simpson Miller
Nelson Mandela's primary struggle was undoubtedly for the freedom of his people. What made him the icon that he is, is that, in doing so, he provided messages for the rest of us.
Like Mandela, we must not allow ourselves to be imprisoned by our past experiences, but rather go forth in the present and the full confidence in our people and the full acceptance of our role in creating a better society for us all.
In many ways, the struggle against exploitation and the struggle for true liberation is a process. Racism is still very much a factor in our hemisphere. … In our own backyard, we are disturbed, and Caricom has made strong statements in the Dominican Republic which threatens to make stateless hundreds of thousands of citizens of the Dominican Republic of Haitian descent.
Some of these issues are uncomfortable, but these are issues Mandela addressed and would want us to address. We must admit, right here in Jamaica, the vestiges of racism … persist in many insidious forms.
For his beliefs and in defence of others, he was jailed. Jailed not only to lock him away, but jailed to break his spirit and his commitment. After breaking stones in the quarry at Robin Island, Mandela walked out of prison and showed his oppressors that he not only broke stones, but in prison, Madiba broke apartheid. He walked free, and united a nation.
I am not saying that Mr Mandela is an angel, but when you reflect on the life of Mandela, you have to agree that he has achieved more for his people, and human kind, than any other leader in our time. He was able to do it with a level of dignity, respect, love and magnanimity, even to people who were cruel to him.
Matthew 5:9 states: 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.' I wonder what Matthew would say about this revolutionary who became a peacemaker; this prisoner who became president.