Jamaica land be free today and forever

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

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Today marks the start of six days of intense focus on Jamaica as an independent nation.

Beginning most appropriately with Emancipation Day observations today, we reiterate our oft stated view that this period of reflection and celebration will not be worth its place on the calendar if all Jamaicans do not mark the dates and themes in their hearts and in the way we live our lives.

While we do not propose that we live in the past, it is instructive that we, the descendants of slaves, do not forget the terrible wrong of that despicable Emancipation proclamation issued by Governor Sir Lionel Smith on July 9, 1838 advising the slaves who were about to be freed that they should pay rent for the houses in which they lived and the lands they farmed, effective Emancipation Day, August 1, 1838.

For those who never read the proclamation, it said in part: “Where you can agree and continue happy with your own masters, I strongly recommend you to remain on those properties on which you have been born, and where your parents are buried. But you must not mistake in supposing that your present houses, gardens, or provision grounds are your own property. They belong to the proprietors of the estates, and you will have to pay rent for them in money or labour, according as you and your employers may agree together.”

We find great inspiration in the fact that this distasteful demand for rent and the denial of land did not diminish our forefathers' resilience and fixity of purpose in their quest for independence.

Indeed, their example of strength and determination should guide our response to modern-day challenges, especially those like crime, violence, scamming, human trafficking, and corruption, to name a few, that threaten our very existence as a people.

In this our 56th year of Independence, Jamaica is starting to see positive signs of economic improvement after more than three decades of decline. We should not allow those who have no regard for the well-being of this country and its people to thrive.

Failure to do that, we reiterate, will weaken the value of the freedom for which many lives were sacrificed. It will also question our annual focus on Emancipation Day and our appreciation of the true meaning of 'full free'.

So, as we observe Emancipation Day 2018, we note with some amount of satisfaction that social, economic, race, and gender inequalities have, in large measure, been expunged from most societies.

We watch with interest also the strong resistance from well-thinking people to recent attempts to fan the flames of hatred and bigotry globally. How that will play out, especially in the more developed societies, is yet to be seen, but our hope is that respect and regard for humanity will triumph.

With that in mind, we should make it our duty, as we observe Emancipation Day, to play our part in putting an end to oppression and discrimination of all kinds and to ensure that no human being is treated as property by a fellow human.

Let us also be guided by the declaration of our national anthem: “Justice, truth be ours forever, Jamaica, land we love.”

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