St Thomas: Star of the East
This year, 2015 , St Thomas commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Morant Bay Uprising.
This Uprising brought focused attention to depressing social and economic problems facing St Thomas in the East which could be considered a microcosm of problems in Jamaica. The Uprising gained national and international attention and can therefore be considered as a watershed event in the historical development of Jamaica.
The commemoration - this year- will serve two purposes.
First to remind us of the heroic efforts of Paul Bogle and other martyrs who led the Uprising and were killed and George William Gordon who also lost his life for supporting the cause.
The second purpose is to use the commemoration as a catalyst for consolidating a Sustainable Development Plan for the Parish.
The commemorative aspects of the150thAnniversary will have major events which will highlight the seminal contributions of Paul Bogle and martyrs in the Uprising .Five of these are :
· Tea Meeting Candlelight Vigil at Stony Gut -a re- enactment of the meeting preceding the March to the Uprising in Morant Bay
· Walk from Stony Gut to Morant Bay – re-enactment of the March from Stony Gut to Morant Bay in 1865.
· The 11th Annual Paul Bogle and Martyrs Lecture
· Civic Ceremony with Roll Call of the names of martyrs in the Morant Bay Uprising that have been recorded.
· Mock Trial of Governor Eyre
The Sustainable Development Plan for the parish will focus on major state led initiatives that will be game changers for the development of the parish and legacy projects to add value to these.
STATE LED DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES
1. The Southern Coastal Highway
The Southern Coastal Highway from Harbour View through St Thomas to Port Antonio will open up the Parish to business, investment , job creation and employment opportunities. It will also provide increased exposure to one of the most scenic routes in Jamaica.
The further expansion of the Isaac Barrant Centre of Excellence and the Accident and Emergency area of the Princess Margaret Hospital and the development of another Centre of Excellence for Primary Health care in Yallahs which was announced by the Minister of Health will be critical for the Health and Wellness of people in the Parish.
3. Investment and Job Creation Initiatives :
We look with great expectations for :
· Development of the old Goodyear Factory as a viable business venture.
· Development and Expansion of Agro-Parks across the Parish
· Development of Cow Bay as part of Jamaica’s Global Logistics Hub
We envisage :
o Combining specialised facilities at the Princess Margaret Hospital, the Bath Fountain , internationally renowned for its healing powers and the Royal Botanical Gardens at Bath, the oldest in Jamaica , and 2nd oldest in the Caribbean ,to create an attractive Health and Wellness Tourism Centre in Eastern Jamaica.
- Development of Stony Gut as a village and heritage tourism site for reflection and inspiration drawn from the bravery of Paul Bogle and martyrs to fight for the upliftment of our people and to showcase Kumina as a treasured Cultural Art Form.
- Leveraging the Tourism value of UNESCO inscribing the Blue and John Crow Mountains as a World Heritage site by marketing to Jamaicans and tourists its combined offering of breath taking view of sunrise, clean and invigorating high mountain air and exposure to Jamaican culture.
We plan to make education the vehicle for improving the employability of especially young people in the parish and to capitalise on investment and business opportunities for the Parish.
We embrace the current initiatives of the Ministry of Education ( MOE) that are focused on improved performance of students with emphasis on : Mathematics , English , Science , Technology , Technical Vocational subjects and School Leadership in selected Schools in the Parish.
Special attention is currently being given by the MOE to Schools such as Robert Lightbourne, Seaforth , Paul Bogle and St Thomas Technical.
We will seek through consultations with the MOE to have these efforts expanded to other schools in the Parish. In addition we will seek to also have special attention given by the schools and training centres in the parish to new generation subjects such as Animation, Digital Media , Theatre Arts, Sports, Agri-business , Entrepreneurship and Tourism Services.
Sons and daughters of St Thomas at home and in the Diaspora , the Church , the business community and civic groups in the parish will be engaged to develop and implement these projects . A sample of these projects are :
Distinguished sons and Daughters of St Thomas from Jamaica and the Diaspora will assist teachers and students in Mathematics , English and Science aligned with the initiatives of the MOE in these areas.
Special support for selected Basic and Primary schools across the Parish will also be undertaken.
Positive Self- esteem and Confidence Building Project
Notwithstanding exceptional success cases, the people of St. Thomas have had to contend with negative stereotyping .This will therefore be a re-imaging project for promoting a positive profile and image of the Parish and its citizenry, whose notable hallmarks are High and Excellent Achievement, Creativity, Innovation, Adaptability and Resilience.
A series of motivational talks, reinterpreting our story and showcasing achievements of distinguished sons and daughters of St Thomas will be some of strategies that will be utilised. The special 150th Anniversary function to honour 150 distinguished sons and daughters of St Thomas from Jamaica and the Diaspora will be used to kick start this process.
Primary and secondary health care project
Diaspora members with St Thomas connections will be engaged to support the development and operation of the Centres of Excellence for Primary Care and the Princess Margaret Hospital.
As we commemorate the Morant Bay Uprising let us rally around the theme , 150 years after Protest to Prosperity – the journey continues , to take the Parish of St Thomas to a new and exciting destination of growth, prosperity, harmony and happiness.
- Professor Neville Ying is the executive director of the Jamaica Diaspora Institute and a lecturer at Mona School of Business and Management, UWI.