Bruce Golding at 70


Thursday, December 07, 2017

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This past Tuesday, former Prime Minister Orrett Bruce Golding turned 70, having been born December 5, 1947. Were it not for the events surrounding the joint security forces operation into Tivoli Gardens in May 2010, Bruce Golding might still be the leader of Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and might even still be prime minister of Jamaica in his third term.

Born the son of two teachers, Bruce's father, Tacius Golding, would become a legislator in 1949 as the Jamaica Labour Party member of the House of Representatives for St Catherine Western.

Tacius Golding was Speaker of the House of Representatives in our first Parliament after political independence and served in that office from 1962 to 1967. The elder Golding retired from Parliament in 1972 and was succeeded by his son Bruce.

While current Prime Minister Andrew Holness is the youngest person to be prime minister, having first been appointed at age 39 in 2011, Bruce Golding is the youngest person, up to now, to be elected to Parliament. Golding was 24 years, three months and three weeks old when elected on February 29, 1972. Holness was in excess of 25 years old when he was first elected on December 18, 1997.

Bruce Golding attended St George's College up to fifth form when he made the transfer to Jamaica College. Golding was head boy of Jamaica College in his extra final year, having spent three academic years in sixth form. I was in second form at Jamaica College when Bruce Golding was head boy.

Golding says his transfer was due to being teased after a letter arrived at St George's College addressed to Orrett Golding, which explains why he calls himself by his middle name Bruce. Others believe it was because he had his eyes set on becoming head boy of a prestigious school.

Incidentally, I was in third form when Peter Phillips was a prefect. At no time was there ever a contest between Golding and Phillips for head boy. Phillips was not yet a prefect when Golding was head boy.

In April 1966, when Golding was head boy, there was a State visit of Haile Selassie Emperor of Ethiopia. One of his stops was at Jamaica College.

In the Jamaica College magazine of that year Golding wrote two of its articles, both of which have helped to shape some of my opinions that I still hold. One article was entitled, 'Socialism versus capitalism'. Golding wrote in favour of socialism, so it was a surprise to me that he entered the JLP, the party of his father.

In the other article, entitled 'Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?', Golding wrote that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and indicated that he disagreed with beauty contests. This is my view of beauty contests, thanks to Bruce Golding. I cannot say if these are still Bruce Golding's views on beauty contests, but they are still my views.

I recognise that beauty contests are a fact of life, which I can do nothing about. I also recognise that if a Jamaican woman comes first, second or third in an international beauty contest it is a great boost for our tourism product, which is today Jamaica's core business. But I still disagree with the concept of beauty contests.

Bruce Golding's views on both socialism and beauty contests were actually in keeping with the 1960s. It was the age of the Black Power Movement in the USA, which became stronger with the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968.

By that year the Afro hairstyle for women was 'in', and the men wore their hair high, which was dubbed the 'soul' hairstyle. There was also a growth in the numbers of adherents of Rastafari. It was in this era while Peter Phillips was a university student that he started wearing dreadlocks. This brought about some changes at Jamaica College after Golding had left and gone to The University of the West Indies.

And three years after Golding left Jamaica College, a decision was taken there to allow students to wear their hair high provided that the hair was not unkempt. This happened after there was a deputation to the headmaster of three students: my brother Paul Burke, Roy Singham, and myself.

It was also the time of a rebellion against European attire, such as the jacket and tie for men, gloves for women, and straightened hair. In one publication coming out of a black consciousness group came the statement to women: “Thou shall not boil, burn, fry, or roast thy hair.”

When Michael Manley led the People's National Party to power, as Bruce Golding was elected to Parliament for the first time in 1972, the rules for attire for male Members of Parliament were changed to accommodate bush jackets. In her article in The Sunday Gleaner of December 3, 2017, Carolyn Cooper quoted an earlier edition of the parliamentary rules that did not include the kareba or bush jackets for men in Parliament.

When Edward Seaga led the JLP to a landslide victory in 1980, many saw that as a licence to bring back the colonial ways of doing things and also colonial behaviour. This manifested itself in many ways, particularly in the disgusting habit of putting the words “black” and “ugly” in the same sentence. Ironically, Bruce Golding was a member of that Cabinet as the minister of construction.

Bruce Golding, who was once general secretary of the JLP, and later its chairman, left the party in 1995 to form the National Democratic Movement (NDM). In 1997 that group contested 58 of the then 60 seats, but fared badly in not winning a single seat.

In March 2001, the NDM only got a little more than 700 votes in the 2001 by-election in St Ann South Eastern when the JLP's Shahine Robinson won the seat from the People's National Party. This was the reason Golding gave for resigning from the NDM and returning to the JLP in 2002 just before the general election.

When Edward Seaga resigned from the leadership of the JLP in 2005, Golding was chosen to succeed him. Golding also won the Kingston Western by-election when Edward Seaga resigned from Parliament and became leader of the Opposition. In September 2007, Bruce Golding led the JLP to victory and became prime minister. The rest is history.




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