Farewell, Mr Douglas Vaz, innovator and patriot


Farewell, Mr Douglas Vaz, innovator and patriot

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

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Probably one of the best measures of Mr Douglas Vaz's patriotism and deep commitment to the social and economic development of Jamaica is the fact that he chose to enter representational politics in the turbulent 1970s.

At that time, Jamaica was caught in the midst of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. Many Jamaicans — uncomfortable with then Prime Minister Michael Manley's warm embrace of Soviet-backed Cuba and other left-wing governments in Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America — decided to leave the country for the United States and Canada, in particular.

Indeed, Mr Manley's now famous quote that there were “five flights a day to Miami” signalled to many that he had no intention of making an ideological shift to suit Washington, which was solidly backing the conservative Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in Opposition.

Mr Vaz, we suspect, could easily have been among those Jamaicans who fled the country. But he displayed the political courage that was demanded of the time by remaining in his homeland and joining the JLP after Mr Manley declared a state of emergency that was used to detain several members of the Opposition in 1976.

As it turned out, Mr Vaz contested the St Andrew North Central seat and broke the People's National Party's (PNP) stranglehold on the constituency. But it was not until the 1980 General Election that the JLP was able to defeat the PNP after the country rejected Mr Manley's social experiment, and Mr Vaz, given his career in manufacturing, was appointed minister of industry and commerce in the new Government.

Mr Vaz demonstrated an independence of mind when he chose to go his way from the JLP to Mr Bruce Golding's newly formed National Democratic Movement (NDM) after a falling out with then JLP leader, the late Mr Edward Seaga.

Yesterday, at the service of thanksgiving for Mr Vaz's life, his long-time friend and Cabinet colleague, Mr Karl Samuda recalled that Mr Vaz served in the position “with dignity, honesty, integrity and absolute decency”.

Indeed, in a tribute to Mr Vaz published last week, another of his long-time friends and chairman of this newspaper, Mr Gordon “Butch” Stewart, stated that Mr Vaz, to his final days, “maintained a keen interest in the well-being of Jamaica and never lost sight of the notion that the purpose of politics was to give the highest quality of public service”.

“Among the things Dougie Vaz valued most was a good name. He was a man of unquestioned integrity, incredible decency, an innovator, and a patriot to the last,” said Mr Stewart.

That he gave tremendous service to this country throughout his years as head of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association and as a member of the political executive is without doubt.

His family, friends and colleagues will admit that Mr Douglas Vaz's time on Earth was well spent. He was a man who gave of himself to his family, friends, and, indeed, his country.

May his soul rest in peace, and may his legacy of service be emulated by others who, like him, have chosen to serve Jamaica, land we love.

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