Are we doing enough to honour those who served Jamaica well?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

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Well-thinking Jamaicans are undoubtedly pleased at efforts to develop the birthplace of National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey as a museum and appropriate memorial.

This is against the backdrop that last Friday, August 17, marked the 131st anniversary of Mr Garvey's birth.

Culture Minister Ms Olivia “Babsy” Grange says she has instructed the Jamaica National Heritage Trust to “move swiftly to take possession of the property, acquire all outstanding approvals and to begin construction before the end of the year”.

This comes after prolonged negotiations with current occupiers of the property have so far failed to arrive at an amicable arrangement.

Ms Grange is now essentially saying that 'enough is enough'; there has been enough talk and that she has been “working closely with the Member of Parliament and the Housing Agency of Jamaica to finalise the relocation. We are showing goodwill and I anticipate full co-operation as we move ahead with establishing this important national monument”.

Going by radio news reports on Sunday, the occupants of the historic property at St Ann's Bay are saying they don't wish to block the development of a museum in honour of the National Hero. However, they are only asking to be properly compensated and housed on removal from their current location.

They are apparently not satisfied with offers they have received thus far.

We recognise that there is a lot we do not know such as how much is being requested by the occupants. But on the face of it, asking for appropriate compensation and suitable replacement accommodation sounds reasonable.

Certainly, it would be most inappropriate if Mr Garvey's name gets caught up in unnecessary controversy and/or allegations of abuse by the State. We feel certain that it is still possible for amicable discussions and a suitable resolution.

That said, it reminds us of the constant need for Jamaicans to commemorate their history properly and to honour their heroes through museums, memorials etc. Throughout history human civilisations have used such strategies to help build community and national pride and to keep generations to come in touch with their roots.

We are aware that the birthplaces of National Heroes Sir Alexander Bustamante and Mr Norman Manley have been converted to museums and that all seven National Heroes have been honoured through memorials of varying sorts. Should more be done?

Also, what of others, such as prime ministers? We recall discussions about plans for a memorial at the birthplace of late prime minister and trade union leader Mr Hugh Shearer, at Martha Brae, Trelawny. And we are aware that the three-bedroom house in which the late Sir Donald Sangster was born at Mountainside in southern St Elizabeth is in ruins.

Of course, there are other former prime ministers four of them still with us.

From this newspaper's perspective, word from the National Heritage Trust about plans going forward would be in order.

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