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LETTER OF THE DAY - Farewell, Rex Nettleford

Published:Thursday | February 11, 2010 | 12:00 AM


I wish, on behalf of the Michael Manley Foundation, to express our profound regret at the passing of Professor the Hon Rex Nettleford, a man from ordinary origins who contributed most extraordinarily during the past 50 years to many facets of Jamaica's, and the region's, development.

Professor Nettleford was a personal friend of the late former prime minister, the Most Hon Michael Manley, and both, during their time, engaged in lengthy, robust and passionate discussions on matters of national, regional and world interest.

Nettleford and Manley were creative thinkers, and both believed that change in a society was possible only when persons dared to be different. It was this synergy of philosophy which contributed to the exchange of ideas between the two.

Extremely influential

The self-worth of the human being was also central to both Manley's and Nettleford's philosophy. In this regard, Professor Nettleford was extremely influential as Manley and his government sought to:

remove the many pieces of Jamaica's antiquated labour legislation in an effort to modernise our industrial relations practices;

introduce the policy of worker participation in the belief that those who contribute their labour to production must also be given the opportunity to participate in the management of their enterprises and enjoy an equitable share of the fruits of their labour where they labour; and

promote the philosophy of what the Professor coined as the 'smadification' of the Jamaican people, emphasising the fact that Jamaicans from humble beginnings, if given the opportunity, also have the capacity to contribute to national development.

Gaining recognition

Michael Manley and his government, in recognition of Professor Nettleford's contribution to academia, culture, trade unionism, the arts, regionalism and internationalism, appointed Nettleford as cultural adviser to the government in 1972, and three years later awarded the nation's third highest honour, the Order of Merit, to the professor at the youthful age of 42.

Nettleford will always be remembered as a man who believed that despite the people of Jamaica being creatures of severance and suffering, they were also creatures of survival. Their movement from mere survival to success, according to Nettleford, was dependent on the ability of the people to master the art of education and use their own creativity and imagination to bring about change, which had to be rooted in their cultural norms and national identity instead of the regurgitation of that which was imported.

Rex Nettleford, in the words of Michael Manley, will always be remembered for "immense scholarship, elegance of language, international recognition, charisma, and uncompromising aristocratic bearing".

The Michael Manley Foundation wishes to express its condolences to his family and friends, and may his soul rest in peace and light perpetual shine upon him.

I am, etc.,



The Michael Manley Foundation