Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller last Friday urged Jamaican leaders to follow the example of the late South African president Nelson Mandela and strive to rid themselves of tribalism.
Addressing a joint sitting of the Parliament convened to pay tribute to the anti-apartheid fighter, Simpson Miller said modern leaders are called upon to learn from Mandela and secure social and economic freedom for their people.
"Mandela's legacy must teach us that in developing nations' quests for growth and national development, unity, a common vision and proactive engagement of the people must play a part," said Simpson Miller.
Mandela died on December 5 at the age of 95. He was South Africa's first black president and the champion of the anti-apartheid struggles.
"As leaders, our approach must be one that seeks to advance the cause of our people with integrity, with compassion and humility.
"Bitterness has no place in the quest for true development. The best tribute we can pay to him, Mr Speaker, is to emulate his extraordinary life and to see to what extent we can reflect his glory.
"Let us, in honour of Nelson Mandela, determine to rid ourselves of tribalist tendencies," declared Simpson Miller.
"Nelson Mandela was nothing if not an all-embracing consensus-builder who believed in inclusive leadership. What a lesson for us Jamaicans!" she added.
Mandela a giant of modern societies
Some 18 parliamentarians last Friday paid tribute to Mandela describing him as a giant of modern societies.
While the tributes for Mandela were many, the turnout among legislators was approximately 66 per cent and only four former lawmakers showed for the sitting.
The absence of a full house, however, did not retard the flow of members paying glowing tribute to Mandela.
President of the Senate, Floyd Morris, said one of the greatest tributes Jamaica could pay to Mandela is to commit itself to advancing the case of the most marginalised and vulnerable in the society.
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness hailed Mandela for demonstrating that leaders cannot afford to hate, and called attention to the fact that he found it possible to abandon some of his own prior convictions, such as nationalisation of industries, in the interest of the country's development.
National Security Minister Peter Bunting said while Mandela had been able to break the back of apartheid in his homeland, the vestiges of racism still exist in other parts of the world.
Bunting pointed to the decision of a court in the the Dominican Republic to declare stateless persons of Haitian descent.
"These are the issues Mandela addressed in his time and would want us to address," Bunting said.
Opposition Senator Robert Montague said that not only did Mandela break stones while imprisoned on Robin Island, he also broke the back of apartheid.
Montague urged the Government to commission the building of a statue to be placed in Mandela Park, Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, in recognition of the icon's contribution to humanity.
Photos by Rudolph Brown/Photographer