Jamaica worth every bead of sweat that we break

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, January 28, 2019

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VOLUNTEERISM is alive and well in Jamaica, and the kind folks who are stepping up for others are positively inspiring. The Business & Professional Women's (BPW) Club of St Andrew have been supporting the Elsie Bemand Home for Girls for decades and at a recent meeting members spoke like proud parents when they related the academic performance of the students. For back-to-school they have ensured that the children have uniforms, books and proper nutrition to optimise their performance.

Attorney-at-law Gloria Langrin announced at the meeting that she had been researching legislation for protection of the elderly and had data from Australia, Canada, India, and Northern Ireland which can assist the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) in their quest to have similar legislation in Jamaica.

There were just about a dozen members at the BPW meeting planning these initiatives under the leadership of President Dr Mearle Barrett. I was reminded of that famous quote by the late anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

When we survey the beauty of our land, the blessings of our fertile soil, and the innate goodness of our people, we know that Jamaica is worth every bead of sweat that we break. As we journeyed to Ocho Rios and Montego Bay earlier this month, the sights buoyed our spirits on our mission to establish chapters of CCRP, which advocates for the welfare of seniors. Enthusiastic volunteers Norma Taylor and Shona Heron in Montego Bay have stepped forward to lead the over 200 members in western Jamaica, and Vanna Taylor and Pixley Irons will lead the over 100 in north-east Jamaica.

There is a great deal of focus on our children — as there should be — but not enough on our elderly, too many of whom are being abused mentally, physically and financially. Shona Heron related to us the heart-rending story of her late elderly relative who had suffered from dementia. She visited her regularly and noticed that she had marks on her legs. One day Shona entered the house unannounced only to find the caregiver beating the poor woman. We have heard too many horror stories like this. Thank goodness for the efforts of concerned Jamaicans on behalf of the elderly.

Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding pointed out at a Jamaica Stock Exchange-hosted conference last week that we have to go “beyond the bounds of legislation” to establish “a culture of integrity”. He noted, “I'm talking about a situation where something might not be illegal, but it is just plain wrong and the society accepts that it is wrong.”

I have to thank Dr Lucien Jones for linking me to an excellent Jamaica Observer report headlined 'Unity of Purpose' by Karena Bennett. How wonderful when politicians on opposing sides go into retirement and now congratulate each other on their past initiatives.

Golding harked back to former Prime Minister P J Patterson's Values & Attitudes Programme that was branded as political and fizzled in 2003. He remarked, to much applause, “I've heard Prime Minister [Andrew] Holness make a number of statements that are almost indistinguishable from what P J had put forward 25 years ago. And I'm just wondering whether the former prime ministers shouldn't make ourselves ready to lend support to get the discussion going.”

The Observer reporter recalled a speech made by Patterson to a Rotary Club in Hanover last year in which he acknowledged Bruce Golding's previous call: “As Bruce said, every pronouncement that is made, however it is articulated, comes out with the central things. We need to change our patterns of behaviour. It is time we move from talking about it, now that we seem to be saying the same thing, to acting on it,” Patterson reasoned.

“The message to go forth from this conference [is] that there is a suggestion that the political leaders should seek to invoke the help and support of those of us who have retired. We are prepared to get on board and put this thing at a level where the whole nation accepts. This is not an orange or green business, this is a matter of where we are as a nation,” he said.

This proposed programme is being seen as the “last contribution to the national effort” by our four retired prime ministers: Golding, Patterson, Edward Seaga and Portia Simpson Miller.

At a Kingston Lay Magistrates event, hosted by Custos Steadman Fuller, Patterson suggested an Anti-Crime Commission, similar in composition to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ). Having served the ECJ and its predecessor the Electoral Advisory Committee, and seen how the opposing parties argued every last detail of the Representation of the People Act to give Jamaica a gold standard electoral system, I believe that this model should be given a try.

“It's not an easy road

Many see the glamour and the glitter

And think a bed of rose

Who feels it knows

Lord help me sustain these blows.”

At a Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) meeting in 1995, chaired by then President Adrian Wallace, they proposed that Buju's Not An Easy Road would be a perfect music video to rally support for Jamaica's team preparing for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and were approaching several companies to co-sponsor it. I remember going home, giving the song a good listen, and convincing my client that they should take up the whole sponsorship. This was agreed, and it was my pleasure to visit the studio at which Buju did his recordings and meet this courteous and brilliant lyricist.

And so, as Buju sang these words, we saw a fine athlete, now Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, Member of Parliament, going through the paces. Jamaicans quickly caught the Olympic spirit, and we were wild with joy when Deon Hemmings brought home the gold in the 400m hurdles event.

After a startling incident in Florida, Buju has served his time and will return to the stage in triumph. I have relatives abroad who have booked their tickets to be here for March 16. I hear there is not a hotel room to be had that weekend. Buju is back, and we wish him every blessing in this new chapter of his eventful life.

After declaring Independence in 1947 India became a republic two years later. Here, in Jamaica, India's High Commissioner M Sevala Naik and his wife hosted a celebration of this significant milestone in their country's history — its 70th Republic Day.

The Indian Express online report stated: “The 70th Republic Day was celebrated with huge pomp and show in New Delhi as a grand parade rolled down Rajpath. Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid a floral wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti which was followed by the unfurling of the flag by President Ram Nath Kovind with a 21-gun salute in the background. The PM and President were accompanied by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is the chief guest for the event.”

Happy Republic Day to our Indian friends!

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